Relax, Rest, Recharge  — Those are often my goals at the end of a night, the beginning of a weekend, or when entering a break. And right now, we are in Spring Break season. Whether you are in school or not, work in a school or not, we-just-have-to-make-it-to-Spring-Break mentality takes over during this time of year. When we think about the draw of any break – from a week long Spring break where you are free of homework or deadlines to the mini-vacation that is the few hours between when you put kids to bed and you go to bed yourself – we are all typically after one thing: permission and opportunity to actually rest. 

So, in an attempt to relax and recharge, I watch a show, sit and scroll, go to a coffeeshop to read, “relax on the couch,” or even lay in bed reading or listening to a podcast. And I enjoy each of these things! But oftentimes, I maneuver my way through the day or night, weekend, or break only to realize that I do not, in fact, feel rejuvenated at all on the other side of a break.

The Productivity Trap: Why We Struggle to Engage in True Rest

And I have been wondering why this is. It seems that there are multiple factors at play. For one, productivity is heavily praised, even if – sometimes especially if – it is at the expense of our own health and wellbeing. Rest and relaxation can be seen as an unnecessary roadblock to doing and achieving all the things. So we run ourselves ragged and then spend our relaxation time either so wound up we cannot physically rest, or we spend it in a a state of quasi-rest, where our bodies may be stationary, but our minds are already responding to emails, creating to-do lists, reminding ourselves of all the things we need to do when we are *done resting.*

So then we “rest,” by the rest may be coated with guilt that we are “not being more productive,”  or we do the things we think our minds and body needs to rest, but they may not be things we are actually craving. And to be honest, I’m preaching to the choir with all of this. I am one of the most busy-body, productivity-oriented people I know, but it’s perhaps because of this that I can recognize the impact of not engaging in the rest and relaxation we need.

I was recently listening to a podcast recommended to me by a friend: The Lazy Genius Collective by Kendra Adachi, and in one of her episodes, she outlines the fact that there are different types of rest. And that all of us need each type at different times. And that many of us think we are resting in the way that our minds and bodies need when, in fact, we may not be resting in the way that we actually need to be, or we may not be resting at all.

The 7 Types of Rest: Understanding When and How to Relax, Reset, Recharge, and Take a Break

1. Relax

This is the type of rest that we all need to live a balanced and fulfilling life. This type of rest involves doing something that brings you joy and helps you unwind, something that makes you slow down a bit internally. This will look different for each of us; it could be reading a book, taking a bath, watching a movie, grabbing dinner with a friend, going for a hike. Listen to your mind and body, and notice which activities make you feel less anxious, more happy, more content. Doing these things when we are in need of relaxation is a great start  to engaging in meaningful rest. 

2. Reset

This type of rest involves stepping away from your routine and taking time to reflect on your goals and priorities. This type of rest is needed when relaxing doesn’t feel relaxing because there is something nagging on your mind, body, or soul. You may try to sit down to read a book, but you aren’t fully in it because what you actually need to do is address the area of your day, week, life that needs a reset. The reset process may involve journaling, meditating, talking to a therapist to help you process through where a reset is needed and what a reset may look like for you. 

3. Recharge

We all need to recharge now and then. When you feel like you are falling behind or when you are running on E. You are doing all the things, and you have nothing left to give. Recharging may start with a good night of sleep. A good night of sleep and a whole lot of doing things that make you feel like yourself. If you have the ability, taking a day or weekend to yourself to unplug and engage in things you like to do for you can be great recharging opportunities. 

4. Take a break

Taking a break is a form of rest that is necessary when we are in the midst of a task or season that doesn’t allow us to really rest or recharge: the early days of parenthood, the pressure of finals week, being a caregiver for a sick loved one. This type of rest involves taking a break from a particular task or project that is draining your energy. It might involve stepping away from your work for a few hours, taking a quick walk outside, taking a shower by yourself while someone else holds your baby. It may not be as deep or rejuvenating as a longer period of resting or recharging, but breaks are important and can be life-giving in those days, weeks, and months of hard life seasons. 

5. Rest before something busy

The next three types involve the timing of the resting, recharging, or break that you are engaging in. Thinking through your days, weeks, and months can help you anticipate times where you know you are going to be more busy, have less margin. This type of rest involves taking time to rest and recharge before a busy period, such as a big project at work, the birth of a new baby, the beginning of exam week, the start of grad school. 

6. Rest during something busy

This type of rest involves taking short breaks during a busy period to recharge and refocus. This may be in the midst of a busy season of life, or this may be in the midst of a particularly challenging task. For instance, you may plan a weekend of resting and recharging in the middle of a semester where you are taking a particularly hard class. You may plan a longer lunch on a day where you have back-to-back meetings and tasks at work. The point with this one is to consider the why behind your need for some kind of rest. If you know you would likely not be in a good mental or physical headspace at the end of the busy period without rest in the midst of it, it would be a great idea to take the opportunity to rest during this time.

7. Rest after something busy

Lastly, resting after something busy can be a time of celebration. Maybe you made it through the school year or a challenging season at work. Maybe you are home after a lot of travel for work, you passed your boards, your kids started school after a summer break where they were all home. Whatever it is, it is worthy of celebration in the form of rest and relaxation – in whatever way appeals to you! 

Since learning about the different types of rest, I am better able to get myself into a position where I can actually engage in what my mind and body need on a given day, during a busy week or a grueling season of life. It’s important to note that everyone’s rest needs are different, and what works for one of us may not work in the same way for someone else. The key is to tune in to your own needs and plan for the type of rest that you need to fully recharge.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed or unsure about what type of rest you need, take a few moments to reflect on your current state of mind and body. Assess your emotions, level of focus, and motivation. 

Consider the following journal prompts, too, as a starting point to help you consider the way you currently view and engage in rest:

  • What does rest currently mean to you? What does it look like?
  • Do you find it difficult to rest? Why?
  • How have your family’s actions informed the way you relate to rest?
  • What is your relationship to productivity? What does it mean to be “productive”? Is rest productive?
  • Do you believe that your productivity defines your worth? Your deservingness? Why or why not?

Making Rest a Priority

Remember, rest is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. And it is not one you have to earn. By taking the time to rest and recharge, you’ll be better equipped to tackle whatever challenges come your way, both mentally and physically. And you’ll enjoy your days more, you will be able to be more present in times of productivity and times of rest. 

So maybe you’re heading somewhere for a Spring Break vacation, staycation, or you’re in the midst of a challenging, chaotic, or busy school, work, or life season. Regardless of which is true for you, one thing that is true for all of us is that we all need and deserve to rest in some (probably multiple) capacities over the next few days/weeks. And it is important  to make intentional choices to not just physically rest, but to actually choose the type of rest you need today, right now. Making rest a priority and engaging in the type of rest that your mind and body actually needs will help you reap and enjoy the benefits of a well-rested mind and body.

By: Erika Muller, Assistant for Wildflower Therapy LLC

All images via Unsplash

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