Making Rest a Way of Life: How to Slow Down and Rediscover the Fun

From the Monday Mission, September 28, 2020

Last week we started talking about rest and took a personal inventory to see where we are on the rest/stress continuum. If you missed it, you can find it here.

I am reminded of the last time I was sick, really sick, where I couldn’t get out of bed or doing anything for a few days. Ugh. (Of course my kids still came in every few minutes and asked me to open jars and resolve disputes!)

The first day that I felt better, I looked into the mirror and was surprised to see how relaxed and rested my face looked. I think we often don’t know how tired we are, how much we are constantly giving and producing, until we are forced to stop. We forget what feeling really great is actually like.

I have come to believe that rest can be a way of living, a way of being, that informs every part of our lives. In all honestly, it’s something I’m still walking out daily. I prefer busyness.

And when I refer to busyness, I don’t mean just work and activities outside the home. Even at home we can stay constantly occupied and frazzled.

My hope for us is that we don’t just get by in life but thrive and enjoy it.

Here’s what incorporating rest daily might look like:

  1. Slowing down

Most of us that struggle with stress go about our day in a stressful way. We hurry. We cram too many things into our days which makes us feel hassled. The solution is to literally slow down. Take more time to do everyday activities, to make them leisure by the way we approach them. Eat more slowly and enjoy each bite. Go for leisure walks instead of just intense exercise. Take frequent work breaks if possible. Start the day with meditation or peaceful music. Pay more attention to surroundings instead of rushing through them. 

Find a new, lower gear that makes the day feel less crazy and more relaxed. The sacrifice may be that less gets done, but so be it. Good health and relationships are more important long-term.

2. Allowing margin in the day

On a related note, our schedules dictates our level of busyness and we have complete control over that. So we have to schedule in margin.

We have to say “no” to things that cramp our day, cause us to rush, or pull us away from quality family time. We have to force the space because no one is going to hand it to us. We may have to disappoint ourselves, our kids, and others at times. But the space we create holds value as well. We just have to notice that and prioritize it in a practical way.

3. Choosing to be peaceful, soft in interactions

This is a particularly tough one because it can mean unearthing lifelong and learned habits. I have always had a tendency to be harsh or abrupt in certain environments. I have had to give myself constant reminders to break this pattern, to choose to speak softly, gently, especially when I feel stressed. The tone of my life is often dictated by the tone of my voice. Not to mention, as a mother, my tone often sets the mood in the entire home. It spreads like wildfire for good or bad. 

When I am particularly frustrated, I have to work overtime to go the opposite direction with my voice and my words. But the returns on this choice are so valuable. Being soft in personal interactions maintains solid connections with others and helps us to feel positive about our relationships and ourselves.

4. Balancing work and downtime as much as possible, consistently

Many of us take breaks or vacations but we don’t integrate rest time into our weekly life. The best way I can maintain a sense of rest is by setting healthy boundaries around my work life (even my home life as a mom) and punching out when that time is up. 

I have to put the electronics aside, let the dishes pile up sometimes, maybe put my feet up, or read a good book, go on a date with my spouse, or go out with friends. I have to make it part of life and not the exception, so that when I do get a glorious vacation, I can make the most of that time and enjoy it. My body won’t be dying for a break so it can actually relax. 

There is something ingrained in many of us that says, “No, I have to work this much. I have to produce or earn more.” It’s simply not true. The quality of our lives is determined by so much more than what we achieve. And we can easily spend a lifetime accumulating things that don’t matter to us in the end. Scheduling breaks and rest days into our days ensures that we don’t miss the good stuff in life as it’s happening.

5. Playing, having fun

Last year I made a conscious choice to pick up a new hobby, surfing, and discovered that not only did I love the sport, but I loved the way I felt. Being in the ocean regularly brought so much joy to my life. I found myself laughing like a kid out in the waves, in a way I hadn’t enjoyed myself in years. It was something I never knew I needed.

Having fun has become much more of a priority in my life. I don’t mean just doing amazing things that we think are going to be fun. I mean, choosing to make life fun. That might mean choosing to lighten up and not take things so seriously, making more time to hang out with friends, picking up a hobby, doing more of the things we enjoy, taking time to dance or play with our children.

Fun can show up in all of the crevices of life if we let it, if we stop and notice our rushing about and make a different choice.

How Restful Living Impacts Us

All of these little habits accumulate into a day, and eventually, a life that feels enjoyable. It empowers us to make better choices to perpetuate this state of restfulness. It protects our physical and mental health and sets us up for success in those seasons of life that are necessarily more difficult, such as having a newborn baby in the house. In the least, it makes life feel more sustainable, even when it’s not fun.

And all of those productive things we put aside to have more margin in our lives — we have more fuel and motivation to tackle them during our actual work hours. We win on all fronts — our personal sense of well-being improves, our desire to do fulfilling work is cultivated, and the people in our lives enjoy us as we enjoy our quality time with them. It eases life, stripping away some of the unnecessary angst and struggle.

If you are deep in a state of fatigue, it is easy to let discouragement creep in and crowd out your hope that change is possible. I encourage you to start by taking one small step at a time. Make the healthy choices you don’t feel like making until you start to feel better. Certainly consult with your doctor or a therapist if needed. Once you start to experience the positive impacts of your restful choices, you will feel motivated to continue. Don’t stop until you are feeling great again. I’m here to say that it’s possible.

Which of the 5 ways to incorporate rest resonated most with you? What can you do this week to make even a small shift?

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