The Practice Of Rest
In the most recent years, people have invited me to speak, Keynote, or write about mental health tips. And, you know I am here for all of it. Each opportunity, I'm like, “Yes!” And then another…and I'm like, “Yes.” And then another…and I'm like “Of course.” And, it's because I think it's part of my purpose. To educate and teach…to inform and to do it my way. And, because my mission and vision is grounded in the lived experiences of Black people and the LGBTQ community, there are lots of opportunities for us to heal because there has been lots of harm done to us. So, I work a lot and I love it.
And yet, I get tired.
One of the tips that I consistently share is: Practice Rest.
Lord, y’all would not believe how audiences and readers be hitting me up like: “What is this, Sis” or “You’re on that ish again, Sis.” But these reactions, they are genuinely rooted in confusion and shock. In fact, some of the more vocal folks are like: “So do you mean, you want me to go to sleep earlier or you want me to take a day off of work?” The answer is, yes…AND!
1. Do nothing. Let your mind rest and relax. Even when we watch TV or read a book, our body is still but our mind is still moving, rapidly – trying to understand information, connect it with what we already know and what we don’t know yet (schematic functioning), retain information so we can talk about it later or utilize it in our lives, or just answer questions on Family Feud. Hahaha. But, we need to have moments of nothing. Moments when we lay (or sit) and just engage one or none of our senses. This may mean, listening to music in a dark room, or burning an aromatic candle while being in silence. It may mean, just laying down…not going to sleep or creating plans or even meditating…but just laying down. And, it may mean taking a beat to put on our lotions and oils…rubbing between our toes, taking time to rub the back of our necks or the balls of our knees. The point is, engage one sense (sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch) and nothing
else…OR nothing at all.
2. Plan around doing nothing. The reality is – life be life’in. Work has to get done. Commitments have to be fulfilled. Responsibilities have to be met. And, we have to fulfill our God-given purpose. And in all of that, we find ourselves with hectic schedules, busy obligations, and wondering if there are more hours that we can pull from and less days we can work (shout out to some countries that build siestas into the workday or approve 4-day work weeks. We see you and want that here too!) So, in all of this, we just can't stop what we are doing and go rest. Nah, I wouldn’t support that because we would feel guilty and stressed later, while wondering if we are going to return to a full-load of BS and unaddressed work. But, we can plan our rest days. Some companies allow for PTO and/or mental health days. And, we should use them BEFORE we get burned out. We should include them in our monthly plans. (Sidenote – did you know that in addition to negotiating your work salary you can also negotiate your leave? In fact, some companies are more generous with increase leave days than salaries because of the implications
for their business finances, payroll taxes, and cashflow). And, what I'm suggesting is to use that day to rest. Not run errands or go get your hair done, because the whole day would be swept away…but to use that day for nothing. Take the kids to school, return home, and chill. And, because we are planning it, it may mean that a couple days prior, the day seems longer. A few more errands ran on a Tuesday….or a longer work day on a Wednesday, but by the time that Friday comes, you can fully rest.
3. Set boundaries around your rest. Listen, my schedule is booked out months in advance. There is a a lot of work to be done in the healing community. And, I won’t lie. There are times when my friend (who is also my EA) Shahidah, schedules a rest day for me, even before I asked or realized I needed it. And, so, I’ll see an empty space on the calendar and try to fill it because I really want to meet with one person in particular or because I just want to get something done before the next round of meetings. And, then I have to remind myself, if I don’t respect my own boundaries around rest, neither will anyone else. Truly, if I compromise a rest day, I find myself resentful…resentful of the work that I want to do or the people who matter and “presumably” need more in that moment. There are times when I even get resentful of my purpose…but it's all because I am tired and because I need to rest. In those moments, I am throwing adult tantrums and sometimes it causes damage, with myself and others, that takes hours, days, or even weeks to fix. I mean, prevention is always better than reaction and fixing but it’s taken some years for me to figure it out. This feels real vulnerable here, because I'm a therapist and should know better. But I'm not perfect and I do my best to practice what I preach. Feel me?
4. Practice makes perfect. (Isn’t that cute…how I did that...practice what you preach and the more you practice, the more you can preach…or aim for consistency because perfection doesn’t exist…said by a Virgo). But seriously, we have to get in the habit of practicing rest. We have to plan it, prioritize it, and do it consistently. It can’t be a one-off thing, such as, Well I will rest this week and then I won't rest again for 2 more months.” That’s not good folks. We have to practice rest weekly. And, because we plan it, we may only be able to get 2 hours this week, and then 4 hours next week, and then 1 hour the following week. But, we are going to practice it and be consistent. And in this, we will learn our body and emotions much more. We will see when we need rest and plan it before it gets bad. We will set boundaries and hold ourselves to it…and hold others to it too. And, then we can even get to a place where we encourage others to practice rest too…because it’s good for all of us.
So, what’s your rest schedule going to be? When are you going to do it? How are you going to communicate the boundary to others? And what is one thing…or NOTHING…that you will do.