Rest is Not Weakness
Hi, y’all! It’s been awhile. I’d say I’ve been slacking on the blog front, but my lack of updates has been intentional: I’ve been resting. Between dealing with some health issues, eliminating things from my diet (aka having to spend a lot more time planning my meals since a lot of my go-to meals were off limits), and balancing work with classes… I’ve had a lot on my plate. So, I decided to dial back on blog stuff for a week while I got a handle on things.
Then when I was getting ready to pick back up on things, my grandmother passed away. And as much as I am enjoying blogging, I found myself not really wanting to write about fitness or health. I wanted to spend time talking with family and giving myself space to grieve / eat entire pints of Nadamoo while balling my eyes out to This Is Us. I decided to intentional give myself the extra space to rest and not to worry about blogging for a few weeks.
I had to continually remind myself by taking a couple weeks off that I wasn’t failing at my blog. I wasn’t giving up or being weak. I was resting. I know I’m not the only one who struggles with recognizing the difference between resting and slacking. Our whole society seems to make the need for rest as a sign of weakness. The #nodaysoff hashtag has over 3.8 million posts on Instagram. People boast about working 130 hour work weeks. People claim the key to success is only sleeping 2-4 hours per night.
But is that really a healthy? No, not at all.
The Types of Rest
Rest can have a lot of forms. Sometimes it means practicing meditation. Sometimes it means having a mini Netflix marathon instead of hitting the gym. Sometimes it’s break from people you love and adore but want to punch in the face after being around for too long. I think it’s pretty specific to each person and it takes awhile to get in-tune with the rest your body requires. However, I tend to think of rest as having 3 forms: mental rest, physical rest, and sleep.
From the start, I’ve wanted this blog to be not just about fitness but overall health. Rest is vital to being healthy, but it often gets overlooked as a health or fitness topic. So, I want to dedicate one post per week to each of those 3 forms of rest. This week, I’m kicking it off with mental rest.
Taking a break from blogging gave me a form of mental rest. I love to write, I’m passionate about fitness, and this blog is definitely a source of joy for
me. However, organizing my mental thoughts is a lot like herding cats. It takes a lot of effort to streamline my random thoughts into a coherent, maybe even mildly entertaining post. In other words, blogging requires brain power. As a human being, I have a finite amount of brain power. When I started getting stressed, the stress becomes a drain on my brain power, leaving even less for everything else in my life.
It’s like my brain is a fridge full of food, but then stress is an obnoxious roommate who comes home and eats my food without my permission. This is the scientific explanation for how stress impacts you. Okay, maybe that’s not true… but scientific studies have proven stress has a major impact on your cognitive abilities and memory.
Stress happens in life whether we like it or not. When I’m faced with a stressful period of my life, I have two choices: fight or flight. If I choose to fight against it and push myself to keep up with everything on my plate, I’ll probably just end up doing a half-assed job at a bunch of things. Not to mention I’ll be a total cranky bitch and put a strain on all of my personal relationships. If I actively choose to step back from some of my responsibilities, I’ll be less frazzle and it’s likely I’ll come back more productive and able to handle the tasks I put off for a bit. Science backs me up on this one too.
Forms of Mental Rest
So what is mental rest? Well, I think it depends on the situation and depends on the person. Remember how I’m continually telling you that you’re a special and unique little snowflake? The more I learn about health and fitness, the more I realize generalized advice is seldom helpful. When I say mental rest, I’m referring to giving yourself space to “recharge” and not feel like you’re being emotionally or intellectually taxed. What things you find recharging vs taxing is going to vary on a lot of unique traits (ex: introvert vs extrovert, outdoorsy, etc). Understanding what truly recharges you takes time and a bit of self-awareness.
One sweeping generalization I am willing to make is that I think everyone should pullback from social media when they’re in need of mental rest. Between FOMO, the temptation to compare yourself to others, and the plethora of political debates online, anxiety triggers permeate the internet. If you’re craving human connection, hang out with friends in real life or pick up the phone and call someone.
Mental Rest Challenge
We’ve all had moments when we’re totally burnt out. When something dumb like running out of ketchup makes you cry. Or you haven’t slept more than 4 hours in a week because you can’t shutoff your mind at night. Or you’ve reached a point of total IDGAF and feel pretty numb about everything. These are the moments when it’s easier to recognize you need mental rest.
However, I’m slowly realizing that being proactive about mental rest helps avoid getting to those moments. Usually I’m a trainwreck 50% of the time (true story), but when I’m proactive and intentional about giving myself mental rest it drops to about 30% and I’m able to give the illusion of being a high-functioning adult.
Again, rest is unique as you are, you damn snowflake. However, here’s a challenge for you (and myself) to proactively include mental rest in your normal routine:
- Spend time daily in prayer, meditation, or quiet reflection
- Plan a “me time” activity every week doing something that recharges you (ex: going for a hike, happy hour with a friend, getting a massage, etc)
- Use your vacation days! Over half of Americans leave at least some paid time off days unused
- Try to avoid checking work email outside of work hours as much as possible
- Set up boundaries for yourself when it comes to work and/or other people