The Power of Rest

We all have an extraordinary ability to keep going, work hard, stay on our feet and keep at it. This is great and something to appreciate. I wonder though whether we have lost sight of what is needed to sustain this and stay well whilst we commit to life and work.

Taking one aspect of self-care and really exploring our relationship with it can be very revealing. For example, rest is something I have had to have a really close look at and would say that for most of my life I have believed it to be a necessity that needs minimal attention or care beyond which it becomes an indulgence.

Over the past couple of years, I have explored my relationship with rest and actually doing shift work has supported with this. At first, I playfully but also kind of seriously approached night shifts as giving myself a bonus day, which is obviously not sustainable! And have now learnt that simply by practising different approaches to when I sleep, eat and exercise around shift work, my body knows exactly what is needed to support being well and vital. I am mastering power naps, realising that it is not always the length of time resting/sleeping that is significant, but the quality of rest that I allow. Do I approach it as a perfunctory necessity, or with the awareness of the importance of what I am doing and how this not only honours me but also everyone I am going to come into contact with in life and work?

And in changing my perception of rest from being only about sleep and a certain quantity of it, to being about listening respectfully to my body – resting when it is called for and also being aware of how I move through my day, and whether I am exhausting myself or actually allowing a flow that does not debilitate – I am able to work long hours with ease and left-over sprightliness!

As an example, leading up to one night-shift, I lay down for two hours and just rested, bringing attention to my breath and my body, and let myself surrender to being supported by the bed. It was remarkable inasmuch as I did not sleep but felt deeply rested and ready for the night ahead. For me, this flies in the face of accepted theories about how much sleep we need.

Our bodies are our greatest guides, signposting us every step of the way with how we are going, what is needed and when we have gone astray. We seem to give more attention to how to ignore this clear messaging than we do to simply listening.

We have an amazing capacity to work and innately love to serve, commit to service and work alongside others; so, it would absolutely make sense to take care of ourselves so that we can continue to do this, yes? And yet it is not the norm to prioritise self-care, to really honour and nurture ourselves, and I feel that this is a big factor in the critical state of our health, time off sick and lack of joy and vitality at work.

I have a sense that our health service would look very different if it was the norm for us to take care of ourselves, take responsibility for our well-being and realise how gorgeous it is to feel well and vital.

By Matilda Bathurst, Midwife, UK

Further reading:
The Body will never tell you a lie
A Relationship with Stillness
Quality of Sleep

 

26 thoughts on “The Power of Rest

  1. Reflecting on the title ‘The Power of Rest’ I remembered a point this morning and in getting ready I just slowed down, came to a stop, came back to my body and everything changed. It was really supportive and all it took was for me to listen to and honour my body in an instant ✨

  2. What I find is so incredibly beneficial is physically relaxing my body, which is basically putting it into as deeper rest as I can. Not only do I do this when I’m lying down having an hour or so’s sleep before a late shift, but I also do it when I’m walking (letting my arms hang and swing/ relaxing my whole head/lengthening my hips etc). It’s so incredibly beneficial to physically relax our bodies, it makes it so much harder for us to allow them to get het up when our physical baseline is one of surrender.

    1. I agree Steve, self-care are our preliminary steps back to God. We can’t reach Him if there’s any element of disregard in our lives. You just can’t bypass self-care, it’s a fundamental step in our return.

  3. Most of us are full of so much internal unrest. We have a whole collection of emotions careering their way through our bodies. We swing from happy to sad to frustrated to angry and that’ can be just in the space of our lunch break. We eat foods and drink drinks that add to our internal unrest by either geeing us up or bombing us out. We bombard ourselves with entertainment, pollution, noise and general ‘lifestyle’ stimulation that adds to our already very unsettled bodies and then at the end of the day we either fall into a kind of coma or lay awake wired! What a great topic of conversation to open up here ‘are we living in a way that’s restful to our bodies or not?’

  4. Matilda what you share could easily be seen as being a small topic of little importance but I know from experience that it’s not. I am also a shift worker and had to smile when you shared about seeing a nightshift as a means of getting an extra day off. My body was completely bankrupt not so much from the years that I did as a shift worker but more from the way that I lived as a shift worker. And so I hauled my bankrupt body around with me from place to place, thinking that I was presenting people with a great version of me but all I was presenting them with was a body that desperately needed to sleep. I just temporarily covered up my exhaustion with caffeine and stimulating exercise.

  5. For so long I thought rest was something I got from a position or amount of sleep – but now I get that it’s something more, something before all of that. An attitude if you like. For we can sleep but wake up feeling exhausted – we probably all know that. I feel rested when I stop moving internally and surrender to how life is. When I embrace this stop I feel beautiful – when I resist like I’ve been running marathons all night long! Thank you Matilda for this offering – loved the quality it was written in.

    1. Joseph what you share is very interesting about living in a way that feels internally restful. It bought to mind what I’ve been practicing after a do a late shift to an early shift. Initially I felt totally wiped out by how little sleep I got between shifts and wondered how I was going to be able to change that knowing that I couldn’t change the amount of sleep that I was getting. So I have been practicing deepening my quality during the day, just surrendering to the fact that I do feel tired and not wishing that it was any other way and it is transforming the way that I feel. In fact I have gone from feeling wiped out to really quite beautiful.

  6. “… how this not only honours me but also everyone I am going to come into contact with in life and work”. Yes, I felt this was inspiring to me to bring deeper purpose in how I rest and sleep, as it brings into consideration how I will then affect others and what I can bring in terms of productivity and being the full me out in the world.

    1. Interesting isn’t it that having a rest can be a responsible thing to do and yet I for one used to think that people that rested were in some way having a bludge. Having said that I don’t think that everybody that lies down and takes a nap is being responsible, I suppose it comes down to the impulse behind the nap; we can nap to restore our bodies, we can nap in preparation for an upcoming event, we can nap to honour a feeling of tiredness in our bodies, we can nap to avoid doing something that we don’t want to do, we can nap because we can’t be bothered to get up, we can nap because we simply can’t stay awake…..

  7. I love what you share here Matilda and the practical ways you have explored this and yes gosh if we all took this care for ourselves and listened to our bodies it would take sooooooo much pressure off the amazing health care services we have.

  8. A great point to ponder on for us all: “I have a sense that our health service would look very different if it was the norm for us to take care of ourselves, take responsibility for our well-being and realise how gorgeous it is to feel well and vital.” – how much could our world change with some true self care?

  9. Matilda, this too is GOLD to read and be reminded of as it is something I too am experimenting with and learning more and more: “And in changing my perception of rest from being only about sleep and a certain quantity of it, to being about listening respectfully to my body – resting when it is called for and also being aware of how I move through my day, and whether I am exhausting myself or actually allowing a flow that does not debilitate – I am able to work long hours with ease and left-over sprightliness!”

  10. Matilda, I love what you have shared here: “I am mastering power naps, realising that it is not always the length of time resting/sleeping that is significant, but the quality of rest that I allow.” – and this is key for us in that the more we look after the quality of our naps or rest, the faster and more efficiently we can regenerate and hence the less we may need as rest on the long run too 😉

  11. I’ve had this belief that night shifts are unnatural and unhealthy. While I read blogs like these it shows it can be done in a healthy way.

  12. I totally agree what you say Matilda,”Our bodies are our greatest guides, signposting us every step of the way with how we are going, what is needed and when we have gone astray.”
    I also do shift work and find that in order to not get exhausted rest is vital but it is about listening to our body and not overriding it.
    I too have found that if I rest on my bed for 2 hrs prior to a night shift and focus on my gentle breath and allow my body to fully surrender, I am refreshed enough to go to work for 9.5 hr shift, feeling energised.
    I have found that it is about the quality of rest or sleep and not necessarily the amount of sleep that sustains you during the next day.

  13. When we take responsibility for our physical body and listen to its messages, the financial and otherwise burden on our health system and the people who work in it would most definitely lessen.

  14. Matilda, you bring a very different understanding to the way rest is viewed. It feels like it makes so much difference how we put ourselves to rest and how we move when we are awake which then builds the quality not quantity of the rest we can have.

  15. A health service staffed by people who honour the value of sleep and listen and respond to their body when it calls to rest and move with grace would be a much healthier place to work and offer a deeply caring and nurturing reflection to their patients.

  16. This also explains why we can wake up tired even if we have been asleep for several hours. It is in the quality of what we do not the quantity. Thank you Matilda- inspiring.

    1. Well said Anne – so waking up tired is a good indicator of our need to revisit how we are living as this is impacting on the quality of our night time sleep and hence snowballing as an effect into our next day too.

    2. Absolutely! As if we go to bed still in the momentum of our day which probably includes some form of stress or anxiety then of course we are not going to get a good nights sleep. I am realising more and more the importance of the wind down period before sleep.

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