I had no idea how tired I was until I made time to rest. Sound like an oxymoron? It did to me. After all, when we are tired, we are supposed to take a break. Only in our 24-hours-open, 365-days-a-year, plugged-in, on-call, electrified world, who has time to rest?
I certainly didn’t.
“I’m so tired,” I would often tell my husband.
“Take a nap,” he’d say.
Only I wasn’t sleepy. I was weary, my frayed nerves always on alert for the next phone call or deadline or crisis. I slept – going to bed soon after our youngest children – but when I woke up, the race started all over again. Think Survivor, the reality TV series in which contestants battle it out on a perilous isle, scrambling over obstacle courses and foraging for food to stay one step ahead of the competition.
Without sufficient rest, the daily strain of living wears down not just the physical body but the mind and the spirit. Some people take a vacation. For others that’s a financial fantasy. And even vacations come to an end. So how do we incorporate rest into daily life?
Here are 5 habits that help me:
- Unplug. If you have Wi-Fi, set it on a timer. Carry a cellphone? Turn it off. Or better yet, leave it behind. A recent study by the McCombs School of Business said that being within reach of a smartphone (even when it is turned off) lessened people’s ability to concentrate.
- Declutter. Not easy with five children. But even something as simple as putting away the dishwashing soap (rather than leaving it by the sink) helps my mind rest when I look around my kitchen at the beginning or end of the day. Keep possessions to a minimum of what you really need and love.
- Lower the volume. According to this month’s Real Simple magazine, the world’s background-noise levels are now louder than any point in history, causing everything from high blood pressure and heart attacks to learning delays in children.
- Seek solitude. Even extroverts need time alone. If you can’t find it inside. Go outside, if only for a short daily walk.
- Plug into Jesus. Many faiths promise a higher level of living based on a list of practices to be performed. Instead, Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28 NIV).
Our need for rest is so central, that after making the world, God made a special day for it. He even wrote it into the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:8). Right up there in importance with not murdering was resting on the Sabbath, the first holiday in human history. And unlike most holidays, which come once a year, God knew we needed rest so much, he set up a day to enjoy it once a week.
So even when life won’t slow down, don’t let it rob you of the blessing of rest.
Meadow Rue Merrill, the author of Redeeming Ruth: Everything Life Takes, Love Restores, writes for children and adults from a little house in the big woods of midcoast Maine.