Despite the vast uniqueness of every human being, there are many universal truths about mankind that I have had the opportunity to witness firsthand through my profession as a counselor. One example: people of all backgrounds, genders, and ages seem to share a set of emotional needs such as acceptance, affection, and security. Another example: there are age-old adages that, while prescribed with the best of intentions, our experiences teach us are completely bogus. Oh no, mom and dad, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can hurt the mess out of me.”
Recently, a recurring theme is popping up in more and more of my sessions and, in full- disclosure, in my own life. It is a universal truth that we all recognize at different times. For some of us, this truth is observed when we commit to a life of sobriety. For others, it is acknowledged when they step into the heart of their college career and have six ridiculously specific classes that each sound more difficult than the one before (any other survivors of “Normative Ethical Subjectivism” out there?). For myself, this truth wasn’t known until I began a career of extreme emotional demand. Regardless of when it happens, we each reach a point when we tangibly realize that we need to learn how to rest well.
True rest looks different for every person. The more clients I see and the more I learn to care for myself well, the more aware I become of the stark difference between rest and “unhealthy escape.” Rest empowers us. It enables us to regain our energy, our strength, our confidence, and even our sanity so that we may approach the responsibilities of tomorrow with our full potential. In contrast, “unhealthy escape” provides us with an immediate gratification that, while for a time may bring us happiness, control, or numbness, ultimately brings us to tomorrow feeling less prepared, less capable, and less hopeful.
For some, true rest is found in the company of others. For others, it is found in restorative solitude. For some, it involves physical activity. For others, it involves being still. If you find yourself feeling like you are merely “surviving” life, like the things you used to find joy in seem burdensome, like your soul never truly “catches its breath”, a healthy dose of rest may, at the very least, be a partial remedy.
Much of finding your healthy rest comes in the form of trial and error. As you look back on your times of leisure, ask yourself some questions like the following:
• Did I walk away from that environment feeling recharged?
• Did that activity leave me feeling empowered or ashamed?
• Did my interaction with that group of people leave me feeling alive or depleted?
• Do I feel more or less prepared to take on tomorrow?
We need rest. We may feel superhuman, but we need rest to thrive. Give yourself the permission to take time out of the craziness of life and explore what true rest looks like for you. Taking time to rest can actually be one of the most productive things you do all day.