Why rest and relaxation are not just the best Christmas gifts, but the gifts that keep on giving. And how sometimes doing nothing is the most radical thing you can do.
In the frenetic build-up to the Christmas season it seems as though time itself
is in short supply – there’s just not enough time to buy all the gifts, get your tasks at work wrapped up, see all the people, plan and make the food, visit all the relatives, get yourself and the house and the kids and the dog looking great, etc, etc… Phew! Even the list is exhausting.
For me the most luxurious part of the holiday season comes after everyone has gone home and I can finally rest with zero obligations.
Rest and relax without feeling remotely guilty.
Lying on the sofa with a blanket and the dog on my feet, staring out of the window and eating leftovers at weird times. Reading poetry, daydreaming or watching trash TV – my choice. The peaceful distillation of time into just the present moment, because I’m too chilled out to ruminate or think about the future.
Recently I started to get curious about the role of rest in my life. I did an interview with my good friend Julie Mann* to talk about the health journey that led me to homeopathy, and realised that each crunch of burnout had been caused by my attitude to rest.
Which was: I’m too busy to rest, and if I rest too often or for too long, I’m lazy.
Many of us share this addiction to busyness and in our rush for productivity we feel guilty if we relax. It’s a radical act to stop doing and start being.
I had to change my attitude to get back into balance and improve my health, and I’ve spent the past couple of years integrating daily and guilt-free relaxation into my life.
All of us can choose to enshrine rest and relaxation into our schedule 365 days a year, without a shred of guilt, accepting that it is not laziness but a necessity.
Why? Because rest is good for us and if we don’t get enough our body starts letting us know through symptoms like headaches, insomnia and digestive issues.
How? Be inventive about new ways to rest and try to bring innovation and gentle variety to your resting regime. There are many ways to rest and much research has been done into the most popular forms of R’n’R – see the resources below.
Takeaway: Don’t be afraid to rest and relax this holiday season. In fact, build it into your plans. You deserve it, everyone does.
Sometimes doing nothing is the most radical thing you can do.
Watch Dr Saundra Daulton-Smith’s Ted talk on The 7 Types of Rest that Every Person Needs
Listen to psychologist Claudia Hammond’s Radio 4 series The Anatomy of Rest
Read and complete the Mental Health Foundation’s excellent workbook Rethinking Rest. Originally designed for teachers – who are some of the busiest people around – it contains a set of ideas and suggestions to get you incorporating rest and downtime into your routine.
Find out more about *Julie Mann, who helps men and women create happy, healthy, sustainable lives.