Rest has been a foreign concept to Western society during the past century. Even the use of the word in the English language has shown a steady decline. Until 2020. This year, the word occurred more frequently than at any other time during the last century. I’m not surprised. It has been one of the remedies prescribed to COVID-19 patients, but really, we have all been collectively exhausted.
I am not sure that we even know how to rest. Sadly, the American-led concept of continuous work has blown over to our country. We consider rest a waste of time or a sign of weakness and have abandoned the rituals of rest embedded in our religious or tribal roots. What does rest even mean to our modern society? Lying on your bed scrolling through Facebook, partying with your friends, listening to music through your ear pods or taking a mountain hike?
The dictionary definition of rest is to cease work or movement in order to relax, sleep, or recover strength. It also refers to being placed or supported as to stay in a specified position.
I love how the definition itself speaks to all the reasons of why, what and how we need to rest.
Rest is essential if we want to deliver good work, become more creative and make better decisions. It is also essential for maintaining our health – both mental and physical health. Rest gives us an opportunity to review and reflect so that we can gain perspective and clarity about our future. Extending that then means that rest is important for our ability to generate income and enjoy the fruits of our labour.
It is important to understand what rest truly is.
People are energised by different activities. Some people love to fill their holidays with lots of activities and social interaction. Others love to hibernate, lie by the pool or read a book. Many choose to spend their time with families and friends. Few people will tell you that they are going to rest and fewer possibly even understand what that means. However, it doesn’t matter who you are or how you like to spend your time, rest must include three elements.
Silence. Solitude. Stillness.
Silence is the absence of noise. We need to still not only the noise around us, but our minds too.
Alone-time or solitude is especially necessary for people who love to be around people. Spending time by themselves helps them to get in touch with who they are, without the emotions that go with their relationships.
Thinking types can benefit from silence – to silence their minds from the non-stop thoughts and chatter.
Stopping constant activity, so that they can tune in to their tired bodies, is what the doing types need.
We need all three elements for true rest, but for everyone I believe, there is one element which is most essential.
When you read those three words, one is likely to offend you. That is for you, the most essential element. It is the thing that you most likely don’t do, perhaps even find impossible. For me, that word is stillness. I always have a to-do list in my head, even if that to-do list includes the books I must read, the time I need to be on the beach and the family gatherings I must organise. I carry a load of to-dos. It means that I never sit still. I don’t allow myself, even on holiday, to remain in one place for a long time. I have to work hard to carve out stillness
For my extrovert child, it is solitude and my music-lover child, it is silence.
How do you get rest during a festive season?
We do not necessarily need to hibernate on our own, deep in the woods, to obtain silence, solitude or stillness. Rest can be the intention or disposition we take. We can aim for those on a contemplative walk or while reading a book and even amongst friends. We don’t always have to engage in chatter. We can just be with our friends, be present with them, like the way you enjoy sitting with a loved one. We can refrain from engaging with our opinions and instead focus on listening to others, really listening.
We need to disconnect from the noise of media, let go of our own inner frantic voices, become more present and calm our nervous system to restore our health. If we can make time for genuine silence, solitude and stillness, even if it is just by carving out ten minutes each day, we can begin to rest.
Sleep of course, contains all three elements of rest. Science is so clear on the absolute necessity of sleep. Yet, we neglect quality, sufficient sleep, sometimes for months or even years. Even during holidays.
Make it a restive holiday
This year has been exceptionally tough. We need rest more than ever. However, our rest may look different this year because we are still in a pandemic. Already there is talk in the media about making this a restive period instead of a festive period. By avoiding large crowds and even limiting family gatherings, we may be able to contain the spread of the virus over the holiday period. Give it a rest as they say. And in so doing teach ourselves how to rest too.
I wish you all a restful festive season.