The Subversive Act of RestMar 17, 2022
I've been guilty in the past of thinking that being busy was tantamount to being successful. I've even heard the phrase "busy is the new black!". But in the years since I burnt myself out, busyness is no longer something I put up on a pedestal.
These days, I look at rest as the all important refractory period at the end of my stress cycle. Just as our hearts beat thousands of times per day, so too does our body respond stress. So many large and small moments of increased demand- from the brief increase in heart rate required to run to catch a train to the surges of adrenaline we feel as our body and mind leap into action to respond to a question from a colleague, a request from a child or simply a work deadline. They all require a cascade of physiological events, carefully honed over thousands of years of evolution to allow us to respond to stress and increased demand.
How amazing are our bodies?
The problem with this amazing system of responding to stress is that, in the modern world, we're predisposed to leaving it on all the time. Just as the light globe that has been left on will eventually go out, so too does our ability to respond to stress and demands.
Rest isn't some self indulgent past time that only the lucky are able to enjoy. It is the all important key to closing our stress cycle- signalling to our sympathetic nervous system that the threat or demand has passed and we can allow our bodily systems to return to baseline.
Just as the cells of our heart carry the electrical charge of each heartbeat in a co-ordinated fashion through the muscle of the heart to create a unified and purposeful beat, only to then sit in their all important refractory period in order for each cell to again be able to carry an electrical charge. So too does our body and mind need to sit in it's own period of rest in order for the intricate cascade of events that make up our stress response to stand down in order to again be able to respond.
Without this period of rest, our body is simply piggy backing off the previous stress response. The ever mounting chronic stress, never actually dissipating and instead being carried with us like an overburdened cart. Until eventually, we can carry no more.
Rest isn't self indulgent.
Rest isn't weak.
Rest isn't optional.
Yet, in this modern world, we treat it as if it is all three of those things.
When we schedule in time for rest, we often end up 'borrowing' time from it when we find ourselves busy.
We berate ourselves with guilt when we do sit down for a moment. Comparing ourselves to others and telling ourselves we're lazy.
We fill any down time we do actually get with phones, TV, food and anything else because when we do actually come to rest, we're so unused to it that it feels uncomfortable.
True rest of the body and mind is actually subversive in this modern world.
It's subversive because so many of us have forgotten how to do it and simply by engaging in it we are challenging the status quo of busyness.
If you struggle with actually allowing your body and mind to come to rest then I would love to work with you on that and there are plenty of ways that you can do that if you check out my Work with Me page. But for now at least, how about scheduling in a 5 minute break today? Just a small window of what your body can achieve when you give it the space to turn the volume down on your stress response for a moment.
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