The Importance of Rest
Podcast Opening over Theme Music:
Hello, and welcome. This is Kate's Nuggets, the podcast where I share bite-size nuggets of wisdom about self-leadership. I am your host, Kate Arms. I invite you to listen lightly. Let these ideas wash over you. Take what you take and let the rest go. You can always come back and listen again.
Hello. Today I want to talk about rest.
Rest is always a necessity for human beings. And now, in the middle of this global pandemic, rest is more important than usual, and for many of us harder to come by.
When children are little and they are cranky or misbehaving, every parent knows to think, "When did they last eat? Are they tired?" Sleep and rest are right there.
One of the theories about colicky babies is that they're simply overstimulated by the novelty of the world around them. And they are constantly cranky because they cannot rest. They need that rest to process all the information they are getting about this brand-new world.
Rest is important for human beings for many, many reasons. When we have sensory input, we have to process it, and the faster the sensory input comes at us, the more difficult it is to process and signals can get crossed.
If life is happening slower, we have a greater capacity to handle the data that is coming into our brains and bodies.
Rest allows us to catch up.
When you have been thinking very, very hard and then you get tired, it's not your body that is drained. It's your brain and your glucose system.
Brains take an enormous amount of glucose to power them.
Resting is when our brains create memories.
Resting slows us down so that we heal.
Rest helps us regenerate.
Rest breaks an adrenaline cycle.
We live in a world where most of us are addicted to adrenaline. The speed of life is so fast that very, very few of us have the capacity to function at the speed that modern life happens all the time.
Sleep, meditation, rest, play, and vacations are all crucial for maintaining our capacity to deal with the level of change that is going on in our world.
We are currently in a pandemic and our social structures have had to radically change in order to adapt to the coronavirus. Learning and adaptation take a huge amount of energy. We have been functioning on stress energy most of us since March, and this is not sustainable.
Human beings are not designed to run at full speed all the time.
Human beings are designed to mostly rest and then to have bursts of energy, but mostly rest.
If you think of a cat, the reason that a cat is as fast as it is when it's running is that it's conserving its energy most of the time.
Cheetahs are the fastest animals on earth but only for bursts. Mostly they rest.
Rest is a radical act in a culture where your worth is defined by your productivity. For those of us who have identity wrapped up in our jobs and our accomplishments, rest is ego-threatening.
In countries where the health of the country is measured by GDP, productivity is the marker of worth. Human beings need rest for their bodies to exist, and yet worth is determined based on productivity. To claim human dignity and worth, not insisting on extreme productivity, is a radical act.
And yet rest is the most nurturing human act. Rest allows our nervous systems to relax, and it is only with our nervous systems relaxed that we are able to love, enjoy beauty, find meaning, and build deep relationships. All these take time and attention.
Overproductivity interferes with the things that are required for life to feel fulfilling: positive feelings, a sense of accomplishment, a sense of agency, a sense of meaningfulness, and positive relationships. You can get a sense of accomplishment and a sense of agency when you are travelling fast at high speed and you can get positive feelings because you can get that adrenaline high, the endorphins of being pushed to your limits, but you don't get joy, contentment, ease, fun, glee at those high speeds.
You only get the thrill of the chase, and it's so easy to get pushed over into anxiety and panic.
So many people in the world right now are living in anxiety and panic because, before the pandemic, they were living at the speed of thrill. They were living just at that maximum capacity, and this has pushed them over the edge into unmanageable anxiety.
Rest is crucial. Rest builds our capacity to cope with everything.
My invitation to you is to consider how you can build rest into your day.
You may find that you have to trick yourself into resting by saying, if I rest now, it will make me more productive later. There's a coaching phrase that I come back to over and over and over again about slowing down now to go fast later. And it's true if we take the time to rest and slow down and dig deep into things, we may get more productive later. We often do, but I invite you to think of rest as good for its own sake.
Now, rest can be uncomfortable because when we slow down from the speed of adrenaline, the first thing that happens is we stop producing adrenaline. And we lose the adrenaline high and our body doesn't actually produce enough energy for us right after we stop needing the adrenaline. So we crash and we go through a period of not feeling good, being bored and listless. Things feel futile and we get crankiness and irritability that just have to pass through time.
Our bodies need time to rebalance the neurotransmitters for the adjusted energy output that we have when we rest.
When we rest, the first thing that happens is the so-called adrenaline crash.
The second thing that happens is that part of our brain is still sort of functioning at that speed. We will often get rumination and worry about what's not happening and what we're not doing and what we're not getting accomplished. All of those judgments about what gives us value and what makes us valuable in the world can swirl in our heads.
And we have to let those ease and calm.
Some of the more powerful practices for getting present in our bodies, for noticing what we're hearing and smelling and tasting and touching and seeing and feeling in our physical bodies, become a powerful way of centering in this restful space.
Letting our breathing slow down, letting our mind soften so that we take in what we can see in our peripheral vision, so we can feel more of the details of what we feel in our bodies, so we can notice more of the nuances in the world around us.
When we rest, we let ourselves see those details and hear those details and use all of our senses with that more subtle awareness. When we practice that and grow the focus there, there's a new kind of delight, a new kind of joy. It's not adrenaline-fueled, but it is very much alive and it doesn't have the rush or the panic. It is full and delightful and easy and not boring at all because every nuance has wonder and mystery, and this is alive.
But in order to go from adrenaline-fueled, anxiety-ridden or thrill-seeking kinds of fast, we need to stop and we need to go through the discomfort of adrenaline withdrawal.
We need to put our screens away and go through the withdrawal of the easy stimulation on our screens.
We need to stop always trying to get the next thing done, made, or created, and we need to just be.
Some of us find this very, very difficult to do without a drink in our hands. And the drink dulls our senses. When we slow down with a drink in our hand, we don't actually get it replaced with the joy and the delight and the details and the aliveness that comes when we just stop and really let ourselves rest. It's when we rest and be and let ourselves just be, slowing down and noticing what's around us, that our bodies reset and we become calm and clear and creative and compassionate.
We are able to process all of the things that have happened to us that we were moving too fast to process. We will have thoughts and feelings and emotions and experiences that we need to move through our bodies, that move through us in sleep and rest.
When we push ourselves so hard that we crash and we rest because we've crashed, that's our body saying how badly we need rest.
When we get sick and it forces us to rest, that's our body needing to reset.
How can you build rest into your life?
Do you need a day off from screens once a week?
Do you need to take those vacation days that you've accrued but not taken?
Do you need to get out of the house and have someone else cook for you because the domestic chores are always, always, always there for you?
Do you need to just sit quietly with your eyes closed for five or 10 minutes?
In the spirit of rest, I am going to be taking a rest from Kate's Nuggets. This marks the final episode in season one. There are nine months' worth of episodes that have been produced on a weekly basis since last December. I invite you to go and listen to them all, slowly, one at a time. If you listened to them before, you can always listen to them again and see what you glean going through them a second time. All of this material bears repeating. May you find rest and ease.
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Here's to Thriving! Catch you next time.
Kate's Nuggets is a Signal Fire Coaching production. The music is adapted under license from Heroic Age by Kevin McLeod.