Springtime always seems to bring with it an energy and a busyness that comes out of nowhere, at least for me! Out of the darkness and chill of winter, life bursts forth, and suddenly I’ve got a million items on my to-do list and a full calendar. Our culture certainly supports this mindset of productivity, and I feel programmed to rate the success of my day based on how many things I’ve accomplished. And yet, in both the counseling office and my personal life, I continue to be challenged to re-examine my ideas about doing and being, about productivity, relaxation, and rest.
As I often discuss with clients (and have shared about here in a previous post as well), taking intentional care of ourselves is so important to our health and well-being. Sometimes self-care looks like meeting a goal or getting something done, but sometimes it looks like taking a day off or doing something we enjoy. Human beings were not made to operate at full speed 24/7, so in order to be healthy we must learn other rhythms. Both relaxation and rest are vital to a healthy rhythm of life, and it’s helpful to know the difference.
Relaxation is what we often think of when considering how to use our free time in a way that supports self-care, things like watching a favorite show, taking a walk, or reading a book. These types of activities are so great to engage in on a regular basis, as our brain gets a boost from doing things we enjoy! Rest, on the other hand, is not doing anything at all. True rest is taking the opportunity to stop — to stop thinking, to stop trying, to stop doing anything other than simply being in the moment. Sleeping is, of course, one way to allow your brain this total pause, but we can take these breaks throughout the day as well.
As an exercise, take 5 minutes today to remove yourself from any activities or devices that might distract you and simply sit and rest with no other agenda. You may find that regular rhythms of rest help you feel more like yourself and ready to take on daily tasks with more clarity and focus.
Audrey Aukeman | MA, LPC