How To Rest (Even When You’re Busy)

A woman reads a book in bed with a dog

When life is hectic and deadlines are looming, it can feel impossible to take even a little break.

No matter how much research points to the importance of self-care, downtime, or a good night’s sleep, it’s hard to prioritize and make it happen. Deadlines, goals and life in general make any rest feel like you’re wasting valuable time, but you have to put it all into perspective.

The most important thing to remember is that rest plays a vital role in our body’s ability to recover. Athletes utilize this principle to their advantage because they know that for the body to be at its best, it needs the occasional break to repair itself. The same is true for the natural stressors of life. 

Unfortunately, when we need rest the most it’s often the hardest to find, and it can be a downward spiral from there. A deadline is looming and you’re working long hours. You’re also probably not eating as healthy as you’d like to, getting enough exercise, or staying up on some household chores. Rest, as elusive as it already was, gets even harder to find.

These are the times you have to build little routines into your schedule, optimize the rest you do get and commit to activities that help you center and focus so that even being busy won’t stop you from helping your body recover. Here are a few ways you can ensure you’re getting a little bit of rest.

Create a Ritual 

Resting when you’re busy can feel like a chore, even when you know how helpful it can be. 

The antidote is creating a ritual that you implement into your day or week that doesn’t feel like an imposition, especially when life feels hectic and you’re not really sure you have time to take a break. Instead, it’s something you look forward to. 

Create some time for yourself that’s restful and rejuvenating. Maybe that’s preparing to go to bed: lighting a candle, taking a warm shower, using all the best products, and crawling into bed. Or, maybe it’s a ritual that you can squeeze into your lunch hour: a walking meditation and drinking a bottle of water. 

Rituals of self-care and rest don’t have to be big efforts, but they should be things that you enjoy and know will serve you throughout your season of business. They are practices that we can turn to that make us feel whole and emulate rest because they’re soothing. They can help us re-center and carry on.

Unplug and unwind

Most people think they’d benefit from cutting down on time spent on the internet, but it’s hard to do — especially with how connected and informed it keeps us. Some call it a social media “detox” or a “cleanse”, but you don’t have to make it so intensive to see the benefits of taking a break.

You can easily track how much time you spend on your phone each day or week. Sure, it can be a bit jarring, but it’s helpful to know, particularly when you’re looking for ways to rest, feeling the effects of burnout or just want to focus more on the present. 

Unplugging, whether it’s after a certain time of day or for the weekend, is a special kind of rest. You’re not physically resting, but you’re giving your mental health a much-needed break. 

A few ways you can do this include: 

  • Taking a weekend away from social media. We often forget how draining scrolling can be until we take a break. Sign off for a few days to focus on you and see how refreshed you feel. 
  • Ban scrolling in bed. Bluelight can be harmful for sleep, so cut off electronic use, ideally, a few hours before bed, but if that’s not realistic, commit to not using your phone or watching TV while laying in bed. 
  • Don’t check your phone first. Most people check their phones the minute they open their eyes in the morning, but shifting your routine can have a big impact on your stress levels. Drink a glass of water, stretch, set an intention. Then dive into those emails.

It’s easy to confuse needing to be connected with business, but it might be beneficial to take a step back from social media and scrolling and see how much better you feel and how much more you’re able to accomplish while feeling a bit more rested in the process.

Remember to breathe 

Something so simple (and involuntary) can have a big impact on our energy. For most of the time, if not all of it, you’re probably not thinking much about your breath even though your lungs are working around the clock. 

Taking some time to work on your breath, understand it and utilize it can have profound effects on your physical and mental health and stress levels. 

“We can't avoid all sources of stress in our lives, nor would we want to. But we can develop healthier ways of responding to them,” explains experts at Harvard Medical School. “One way is to invoke the relaxation response…(which) is a state of profound rest that can be elicited in many ways, including meditation, yoga, and progressive muscle relaxation. Breath focus is a common feature of several techniques that evoke the relaxation response. The first step is learning to breathe deeply.”

Try this: Find a comfortable place to sit or lie down and make sure you’re practicing good posture. Close your lips and inhale through your nose for four seconds. Next, hold that breath for seven seconds and, finally, exhale through the mouth for eight seconds. 

This is called 4-7-8 breathing and it can “help you tap into your inner calm, benefitting everything from your stressed-out nervous system to how well you sleep at night,” according to some health researchers like those at the Cleveland Clinic.

There are several other breathing techniques that can help you feel rested too. Choose a method that you can use as a tool when you need a little energy boost and a moment to yourself.

Written by Kara Mason.

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