Thursday, July 21, 2011

Rest...Embracing Seasons

Today's topic: Rest 


It was the middle of the day, and I was already feeling exhausted from thinking about what I had to do (take note of the word "had", we will touch on that in a few minutes). Do the laundry, clean the kitchen, call back so and so to switch massage clinic shifts, but first I have to think about what works, and oh yah, write on my blog, and..... the list could go on. 
Have you ever felt that way?? No? Okay, well then for the rest of you honest people, let's talk about the importance of rest. We will talk about 1) Definition of rest 2) Cultural attitudes toward rest 3) How rest affects the body 4) Practical applications for rest in your life.


1)What is rest?


Webster's dictionary describes "rest" as the following:




Definition of REST

1
: reposesleepspecifically : a bodily state characterized by minimal functional and metabolic activities
2
a : freedom from activity or laborb : a state of motionlessness or inactivityc : the repose of death
3
: a place for resting or lodging
4
: peace of mind or spirit
5
(1) : a rhythmic silence in music (2) : a character representing such a silenceb : a brief pause in reading
6
: something used for support
— at rest
1
: resting or reposing especially in sleep or death
3
: free of anxieties

Illustration of REST


When most of us think of 'getting rest', we probably think of when we go to sleep at night. To expand your horizons: Rest can also be taking a few minutes of the day to either sleep, or quiet the mind. Rest also can be viewed in a much bigger picture, say, taking a few months away from watching tv or from a particular activity.



2) Cultural attitudes toward rest.

If you are an American citizen, chances are that you are taught that rest is not valued. Nobody ever straight up says that, but its taught by deduction- productivity is valued. Get more done faster! is what we like. 
Some examples: Sleeping on the job is highly frowned upon in our culture. Coffee is the preferred drug in the US because it helps us do more things faster <this blog is powered by a freshly brewed cup of coffee>. If we do not get our food within a certain time-frame we deem it 'bad service'. Faster! Faster! FASTER! is what we gravitate towards. We fill our schedules with learning, sports, social activities, family, you name it. None of these things are bad, but if you ask somebody if they would rather get a few things checked off their daily list, or lay down for an hour, you can bet that they would rather get the list knocked out. Sure, some people will say "I would rather lay down", but do they? As Americans, we tend to think that getting those things to do off the list is somehow better for our overall mental wellness. There is a serious imbalance between work/play and rest.

3). How does rest affect the body?

The body has an amazing system in place for just about everything- stimulus, response, adaptation... Your body is geared towards survival, this includes physical and emotional, since they are one in the same. An example would be: When you lift weights for the first time, you are incredibly sore. Why? You have asked your body to perform a task which it is not accustomed to. It says "Let's be better prepared so that it won't be so hard next time". So the response is to break down tissue and rebuild it with better ability to contract- this takes time, i.e. REST. Given enough time, the muscle can adapt to the outside stimulus. If we do not rest the muscles in between weight sessions, the muscle tissue has no time to repair and ability to perform goes downhill. This is common in endurance athletes who do not take enough time to recover between workouts or seasons of rest; because the cardiorespiratory system is not getting adequate rest,there is a steady decrease in performance, and it can take months to get back to normal daily functioning.
The same goes for any other cell in your body, including brain cells. Everyday we are exposed to thousands of stimuli; our own thoughts, sights, sounds, smells, emotions, conversations and so forth. Our brain cells are firing like crazy throughout the day. We need to rest our brains too. If we do not, we run the risk of existing as mediocre-functioning zombies.

4). Practical applications for you

First, ask yourself some of these questions:
 1. What are my own attitudes towards 'doing nothing'?; what thoughts or objections arose when reading this article?
 2. How much sleep per night do I usually get?
 3. What are my current practices for quieting my mind?
 4. Challenge your 'list of things to do'- do I HAVE to get this done? Embrace the feeling of something unfinished.

Here are some restful practices for you:

Note: this may be VERY difficult for you if you have never tried this or are not used to resting. Be patient with yourself and do not give up after a few minutes or few tries of this. I have found it can take several days to grow accustomed to relaxing your thought life.

1. Find a quiet comfortable place to lay down. Place a pillow under your knees for lower-back comfort if needed.
2. Place your hands on your belly, and bring your awareness to your breathing. Do not try to change anything about your breathing, just notice what you notice. 
3. Start at your nostrils with your observations. Imagine the air entering  your body. Then move down to the back of the throat, then the entrance of the lungs. What do you feel? 
If your mind begins to wander, be okay with that and come back to your breathing. There is no time limit for this, but try to do it until you get a nice big sigh from your body. 

Try getting into a habit of doing this several times a week, if not several times a day, and see how being intentional about resting will change the way you feel! 



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