Like real self-nourishing, soul-reviving rest? It might seem like a simple concept to many, but to me and perhaps others like me, this is more of an elusive idea than a practical application. I say this because many times we talk about removing stress, and de-stressing, but do we ever really focus on the opposite, how to find more rest? I know we think it is implied, but is it really?
From a physical sense we talk about shutting down the sympathetic overdrive, so we can stop the panic, anxious and wired feelings that we all too often feel from the insurmountable stress we can face. The symptoms of insomnia, anxiety, body pain, high blood pressure, headaches, rashes, and digestive concerns are all related to stress.
But are we, in turn, actually turning on the parasympathetic response (or relaxation functions) as a consequence of “de-stressing”? I know we are meant to, as the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems cannot be on at the same time, hence naturally we would expect to be relaxing when we’re not feeling stressed.
However, I often see patients where, they literally don’t know how to relax. And I have to admit, at times I can relate. That the “rest” I am getting really isn’t recharging my jets. I believe too often we think that by just turning down the volume of stress equals relaxation, but does it really? Or is more like we are anticipatory prey, sleeping with one eye open, and waiting for the next danger to pounce?
I think, for me where the struggle lies is the endless to do’s that I have chosen to set in front of me. The constant desire to achieve, and feel productive with my God-given time on this earth. To want to contribute and be purposeful with my life. But at what cost? Is that really the point?
I know what our society would tell us… work hard, achieve big, go for the gusto. To get ahead we must be willing to sacrifice our time, our energy, our balance, and our relationships to achieve our dreams. In fact, I believe the whole capitalistic dream is based on that perceived reality, and that anything less than your best, at 110%, is in fact weakness or failure.
I feel God has been telling me for some time to relax, but I don’t think I have been quite getting it. Thus, as my body once again starts to feel the familiar exhaustion, run-down, emotional and overwhelmed feelings, the message becomes more clear. I have to admit after coming from several years of “productivity” and “fullness” the task of relaxing feels somewhat daunting. How do I do this? I’ve been running a successful, busy full-time Naturopathic practice for over 10 years; researched, written and self-published a 260-page book, The Courageous Cure, on health over the last 2 years; supported and travelled to Kenya for a medical mission project, and also managed to have and continue to raise two beautiful girls with my husband… plus many other commitments, committees, and friends that I devote my time to as well. On a resume that might look good, but really who am I trying to impress?
The truth is the only opinion of my life I actually care about is God’s, so why do I feel that He wants a resume of achievements from me? How have I reduced my worth to Him by what I can do for Him?
The funny thing is I have been aware of perfectionism in my life for a long time, and for the most part have overcome many obstacles. I have worked hard to have good boundaries, I am able to say no quite easily, and I really only use my core loved ones as my gauge self-evaluation. I really can say that I am ok being unique and that not everyone will like me. But, what I haven’t gotten over is the deep sense of needing to use every minute like it’s my last; to really commit to leaving this world a better place than when I found it. But this is the irony, my self-sacrifice out of a sense of spiritual obligation, may actually stop me from really reaching that desired purpose. It’s not to say at times there is not a need for sacrifice required, but it’s easy to lose sight of God’s desires over our own. If we are really to be successful, however, we need to lean on Him for clarity. If you feel Him say stop, you stop; if He says rest, you rest; if He says full steam ahead, you go.
It goes far beyond self-care. It means to letting go of the need to understand all things, to be present in the moment, and to trust all will be well in the things outside of my control. It means spending the day in bed relaxing, not just because I’m sick with a cold. It means turning off the noise, my radio or favorite music stream, because quiet is often where the recovery comes from. It means committing to myself to be still every day, in meditation or prayer, indoors or outdoors, because the truth and answers come from this place. It does not mean planning more trips or escapes from my day to day, but living intentionally everyday like I was on a holiday. It means when we practice a daily routine of finding rest, we make room for it again in our lives. We seek it, and we re-learn how it feels.
Simplicity is shrouded as a foreign idea to most of us in our busy, chaotic, noisy lives. But I want to make a commitment to give it real space. To enjoy the delicate, ease of life and invite it in whole heartedly. The doing less doesn’t mean less purpose, contribution, or worth. That my real restful self is just as successful as my busy productive self. I will ask myself every day if these things bring me stress or rest, and I will discern through my stillness with God when it is time for both.
Are you up the challenge to find rest in your life?