The vital work of rest

As the chaos of August gives way to the structure of September (for many of us), it’s more important than ever to think about rest. I don’t know how your summer’s turning out, but for me, the juggle of school holidays and work is anything but holiday-like!

That said, there is something about August – the fact that it’s the time of year many go away. That year-round activities take a break. That news teams call it ‘silly season’. It’s a time of year when society invites us to breathe out a little.

September though, that’s when it all gets serious again. Back to early rising and school runs. Back to that tighter schedule. So as we approach the turning of the season I want to remind myself, and all of us, of the vital work of rest.

The physical benefits of rest

Without adequate rest, our body can’t repair itself. And, we all need this vital repair and regeneration time – our skin, our muscles, our organs, our immune system all undergo continuous renewal. And they need rest to do it well. A big part of this rest is sleep. Most adults need between seven to nine hours of sleep each night. And, most adults don’t get this consistently, I bet!

So, as we approach autumn, how can you make sleep a priority? Actively scheduling in ‘pre-sleep’ time without a screen can help your body get in the mood for sleep. So many of us have a growing dependency on screens for entertainment and distraction – it can feel like a radical step to turn everything off and pick up a book or have a bath instead. But your body will thank you for it.

Rest doesn’t always have to mean staying still. Gentle movement can promote the health benefits of rest. Our increasingly sedentary lifestyles are correlated with a rise in conditions such as high blood pressure, obesity and cardiovascular disease. Unplugging and taking a walk, going for a swim or doing a stint of yoga can all help your body rest.

The mental benefits of rest

It’s common sense that we all need to switch off sometimes. Making time for rest helps relieve stress and anxiety. It can also increase your creativity and productivity.

Research from the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development – an international research body) has found that working more actually reduces productivity. Our brains need time off to play. It helps us process ideas, experiences and memories, which in turn can mean you are more effective when you return to work.

Aside from being a tactical move to increase your productivity, rest is simply important for enjoying life. For following joy and noticing the things that make life worth living, rather than having our nose to the grindstone all the time. We are more than productive units. All of us, you included, deserve to have time in peace, at rest. Which brings us to an important question. What does rest look like to you?

What does rest look like to you?

Have you noticed that you can spend an evening on your phone, losing hours, and still feel exhausted? It hasn’t given you any rest at all? And, perhaps other times, you’ve been on your phone and come away replenished? It all depends on why you’ve been scrolling.

There’s nothing innately evil about phones, of course. Used to connect with people we love, or find out more about things we care about, or even tick off annoying jobs that have been niggling us, our phones can be a force for great good. But they can also suck time and energy away from us.

That’s why it’s important to think about what activities we turn to in our down time. Are they things that replenish us? Or are they things that we do out of habit and convenience? I know I find it all too easy to reach for my phone when I have a quiet moment. But I also know that reaching for my knitting, or stepping outside into my garden, would be much more restorative.

Rest can be different for all of us, depending on our interests, lifestyles and abilities. A friend of mine runs triathlons to feel good. That’s not my cup of tea – but I have recently started outdoor swimming and love how my mind and body feel from doing that.

Take a moment to think about the activities that truly help you feel rested. Write them down so you have a list to turn to, rather than your phone.

How will you rest this week?

My invitation to you this week is to actively schedule in rest time – and to see whether you can start new habits ready for autumn. Whether it’s by making sure you aim for a decent block of sleep, by doing an activity you enjoy, or by heading outdoors for a walk. It’s up to you. But how will you do the vital work of rest? I’m always happy to talk about rest and self care, so if you’d like to chat, you can contact me here.

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