Keys to More Contented Living, Part 3: REST!

The space between the logs and embers (and the oxygen that exists there-in) is a necessary component of any bright, blazing fire. Simply piling a bunch of logs on top of one another--packed in as closely together as possible--will not create a strong fire. In fact, it's likely the blaze won't fire up at all. 

In much the same way, we need to create space for rest in our lives to ignite our purposes and passions. With so many professions pushing employees to do more and more with less and less (look at public school teaching for an example of this), it's becoming harder and harder to make space for down-time. The distractions of life and the influx of screens have also impacted the quality of our rest. With that said, rest should be appropriately balanced and considered in two arenas: quality and quantity. Remember, balance is key here as well. Too much rest can lead to laziness and lethargy. It's important to set flexible patterns and habits into place to ensure that you have the energy to get things done in a meaningful and sustainable way. 

Suggestions for improving sleep:

  • Develop a healthy sleep routine/ritual. Suggestions for things to include in a routine: light stretching, drinking a cup of hot tea, personal hygeine, and some leisure reading
  • No screens within 90 minutes of going to bed and no caffeine after noon
  • Keep your bedroom cool, roughly 65 degrees if possible
  • Sleeping naked and with the sheets/blankets untucked will allow for freedom of movement that helps prevent being startled awake or bound up while resting
  • Eat a banana in the evening (don't ask...I've heard that it helps!). But seriously, make sure you go to bed satiated
  • Cover your will only stress you out
  • Keep a journal by the bed to right down any last-minute things you remember to-do the next day
  • Reserve your bed for sleeping only (Don't do hw, eat, or watch TV in bed)

If you are having trouble falling asleep:

  • Get up and attempt a "do-over" with your sleep routine. Don't endlessly toss and turn. If you haven't fallen asleep after about 45-60 minutes and your thoughts start to spin about not being able to fall asleep, that's when you know it's time to get all the way up and do something outside of your bedroom. Try a 5-10 minute mindfulness meditation around acceptance/relaxation once you're up and out of bed.
  • If your thoughts are spinning out in other directions, use your journal to write them down. This act of "taking out and putting down" may help you acknowledge and accept the thoughts. As a result, you might find that they're able to go on by at that point.

When it comes to rest, we tend to default to sleep as the main source. While sleep is important, it's not the only way we can rest. So, I'll send you off with... 

10 other ways that you can incorporate rest into the day:

  1. Build in a 5-10 minute formal mindfulness practice in the middle of the day to attend to your mind and body. This could be a good transition from work to the start of your lunch break.
  2. Informal mindfulness practice can be used in micro-moments spent washing your hands, walking from one place to the next, drinking a beverage, listening to music, or simply taking a few breaths and stretching (pandiculation).
  3. Don't work during your lunchtime. Eat mindfully.
  4. Eat foods and do things that make you feel good in your body.
  5. Get outside periodically, feel the sun or rain on your face and take a few deep breaths of fresh air.
  6. Always be reading something for leisure. Keep that book with you for easy and healthy escape.
  7. Take breaks and change your body position every now and then.
  8. Limit screen time.
  9. Go for a walk and get away for 15 minutes, if possible
  10. Avoid "multi-tasking"...being "good at multi-tasking" only means you're good at wearing yourself out.