A woman with a hat, long-sleeved top and skirt standing in a field with binoculars

She looked me in my weary eyes, stained with the night’s before makeup that I was too tired to take off before bed, and told me that I had to fight for my rest. I had come to my friend’s home exhausted and near my wit’s end in need of a wise and listening ear. We sat on her couch into the late hours of the night, and she lovingly reminded me that rest is not optional. As my eyes filled with tears, her wisdom washed over me like a new day’s tide, and I felt myself breathe a little lighter.

My life had been chaotic, busy and full lately— all things (that if I am being honest) I enjoyed. New job. Check. New place to live. Check. Friendship ups and downs. Check. Side hustle and freelance projects. Check. Volunteering in the community. Check. Workout classes. Check.

My calendar had been overflowing for months. One glance down at it stressed me out. Yet with every meeting I scheduled, email I sent, spreadsheet created, coffee date marked on my calendar, group meeting I checked off, I could feel my tank running closer to E.

Have you heard the saying “burn one’s candle at both ends?” I have metaphorically lit my candle on both ends during numerous times of my life. Now that I am older (hello late 20s!), I thought that I knew better. I have learned that no matter how high capacity I may think I am, I am human. I need rest and respite as much as I need water, food and sleep. Rest is not optional— it is the lifeline for overall health.

Rest is not optional— it is the lifeline for overall health.

Behind busyness typically are good intentions. Busyness can look good from the outside— often presenting itself as importance. The longer your to-do list, the more significant you appear to be. My calendar overload is often a result of my need to give and to help others. By nature, I am a helper (an Enneagram 2), meaning that I thrive off of needing to be needed. Yet, I have learned that when that desire to help starts to become less about other people and more about me finding fulfillment in the giving, doing and tasking— that my “helping” is not from a healthy place.

Here are a few strategies for honoring your need for rest:

1. Learn to tend to your mind, emotions and body.

Just as a car runs better with oil, you too need to care for yourself so you are able to be the healthiest version of yourself. Rest can look different, but whatever you choose, it should be something that recharges you. Whether you go for morning walks, take a solo date to the movies on a weekday, go outside and take in nature or stay in to make a home-cooked meal, try different activities to discover what gives you rest mentally, emotionally and physically.

2. Make room for a day of rest.

My friend told me that I must learn how to fight for my own rest. Her words hit me like a bullseye to the heart. While I love to help others, I have to care for me first. I have to put my oxygen mask on first if I am going to be of help to anyone else. Setting aside a weekly day of rest allows you to recharge. Maybe it just means staying in, washing your hair and doing your nails for the day. A day of rest can come in all shapes and sizes. Whatever you chose, learn to say no to anything that would detract from your day of rest.

I have to put my oxygen mask on first if I am going to be of help to anyone else.

A woman carrying bags on top of her head as she walks through an empty trail with the mountains in the distance

3. Become aware of your triggers.

Oftentimes, when I am not in a place of rest, I become irritable and moody. I can unknowingly resent people who I’ve freely given my time, energy or resources. Growing in awareness of warning signs that you are in need of rest allows you to identify when you might be close to burnout before you burn out. Maybe you are getting sick or find yourself with headaches. Perhaps, your energy levels are low, you are anxious or you feel short-tempered. These physical warning signs can indicate when you are in need of rest.

4. Reprioritize your agenda.

Once you identify these triggers, take a step back and reevaluate your to-do list. Prioritize what must get done and what can wait. Create margin to do the things that give you rest.

Rest is something you must actively pursue. It will not just happen. When you make rest a priority, it will alter your ability to love others well and live more fully.

What are your thoughts on making rest a non-negotiable? How can you make rest a priority in your life?

Images via Elizabeth Messina Photographs, Darling Issue No. 1

1 comment

  1. Wow, this was such a timely article for me to read… Like you- I have always been someone who thrives off of productivity and to-do lists and resting has never come naturally.. but it really caught up to me this year. As a full-time mother doing full-time school, wife, home-maker, freelancer and all the things I guess you could say there’s a lot on my plate. my husband pointed out to me this past weekend during my 3rd ER trip this year ( long story- but autoimmune stuff and heart stuff) that my last break was my last ER trip nearly 8 months ago… obviously, that wasn’t really a “break”. I’m slowly realizing like you said rest isn’t optional. I’m going to have to get creative but now I am actively pursuing it because I want to love my family and friends well.. Thank you, Stephanie, for sharing these words. I see more articles about hustling and time management than I do rest and it’s such an important message, especially for those of us Millenials and
    mothers.

    Hannah
    https://www.instagram.com/theblessedlittlelife/

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