This blog post is for everyone, but it’s especially for those people who have a hard time allowing themselves down time. There’s always something that needs to be done. There’s always somewhere to go, someone to see. Even when not on the job, there’s work to be finished or improved, some creative project waiting in the wings. Sitting still feels lazy.
I’m one of those people. I always have been, ever since I was a hyperactive, ambitious child. And it’s good to stay busy and active of course! Successful people of all genres are often like this. There’s nothing wrong with being a go-getter. Personally, I’m still extremely adverse to laziness. However, something I have learned over the years through all my go go go is that mindful resting is not only helpful, it is absolutely necessary to stay healthy, happy, and productive.
What is mindful resting? I think of it as rest and relief with a goal. Your body is not made to go like the energizer bunny in a constant line of activity, but if you’re one of us–one of those I-can’t-stop-now-not-when-there’s-so-much-to-be-done types–your brain probably won’t automatically cue you to slow down when you need to. So make a conscious effort to set aside time for rest each day. Set a time goal. It doesn’t have to be a long time, especially at first. If you’re an overachiever, sitting and doing nothing for even five or ten minutes may make you want to pull all your hair out. I know that a few years ago, I was in that exact position. Take it slow, start out small.
You do want to set a time for your resting, because if you rest for too long, you may end up missing important things on your schedule, or even feel groggier than before. Sometimes you don’t realize how exhausted you are until you sit down and start paying attention to your breathing.
At first, it may sound silly to plan your resting breaks. But if you’re a person who has been going too hard for too long, you know it’s about time you applied your natural work ethic to your own wellness. And if you’re still stuck, done worry, I’ve created a handy dandy acronym for you.
R- Recharge. Don’t spend your whole resting break thinking about everything else you “should” be doing, worrying about the stuff that’s been making you so stressed and tired, or you will stay stressed and tired no matter how long you rest. That’s easier said than done, especially for people prone to anxiety. You can’t just switch that off. What you can do is remember to breathe, try to relax your body in a comfortable position, and let your mind wander. Letting the mind wander is a skill involved in mindfulness that needs to be practiced and honed. Mindfulness allows your mind to drift from thought to thought without getting hung up on any specific one. It doesn’t always come naturally, and that’s okay, but it is a very useful skill indeed. We’ll go more in depth with how to practice mindfulness in a later blog post.
E- Evaluate. After you have allowed your mind to recharge, drift, wander, and relax, begin to ask yourself questions that will help you improve your lifestyle and state of stress. Am I getting enough sleep? Am I waking up feeling more tired than when I went to bed? Am I stretching throughout the day to prevent lactic acid buildup in my body? Am I being too hard on myself mentally with negative self-talk? Ask yourselves these questions gently, without judgment. The point of this evaluation is not to chide yourself; it is to show yourself what areas of your life and mindset could use improvement to flourish.
S- Slow down. After you’ve evaluated yourself in this manner, it’s time to slow it back down. Breathe deeply and evenly. If you are experiencing anxiety in this moment, try this: breathe in, hold for a slow 1-2-3, release the breath slowly. This style of breathing is proven to be effective for people suffering from anxiety disorders to prevent panic attacks from occurring.
T- Try again. It’s important to remember that learning to practice necessary relaxation and mindfulness is a process, and you may not be able to fall into a mindful state right away. If you’re like me, you might not even be able to sit still the first time you practice mindfulness or try to rest. That’s okay. With practice will come the patience and ability to overcome a lot of your anxiety and discomfort. The most rewarding things are often difficult to achieve, but they are called rewarding for a reason.
I hope you all have a peaceful and low stress Saturday. Remember to take breaks if you’ve got a big day or you’re feeling overworked. You may feel like you just need to power through whatever you’re dealing with physically or emotionally, but you can only do that for so long before it catches up to you. Take care of yourselves.