Several years ago, I began setting aside one day out of the week to rest.
An entire 24 hours in which I don’t do any work (even mental) on my business, answer any emails, clean my house (unless I want to, more on that later), respond to texts, messages, or voicemails. In fact, many times I turn my phone and computer off and don’t even look at them. Sometimes I hang out with family or friends, but often I spend it alone to recharge. I may stay in the house all day, or I may drive for hours in the mountains. I may read, write in my journal, sing Broadway songs at the top of my lungs, or take a long nap. Sometimes I create, cook, or organize something (one of my favorite things to do), but other times I leave everything undone, even all my dishes.
How does that sound?
Believe me, I understand that this feels impossible. I have gone through graduate school and started my own business while doing this. Quiet indeed are the voices that suggest taking time to rest.
Unless you listen for them, they are impossible to hear above the shouts of everyone else. Those telling you that this matter needs your attention. Yesterday. And that if you unplug, even for a second, everything you have worked for will come crashing down.
Because it seems so impossible to rest is exactly why we should do it.
A day of rest is a gift to us. When God created us, He made it so that we would function better if we stopped to rest. We are more productive and creative (not to mention more healthy) when we take regular time to rest.
This is how your body works, and you can benefit from working with your body in this way, whether you believe in God or not! A day of rest reminds us that the world goes on without us… …that we are only a speck in the universe… …and that we are only human. We cannot be superhuman forever, something will break down—maybe our health, our relationships, our jobs…
There can be some barriers to rest. Your job schedule, or deadlines at work. Family responsibilities, or projects waiting for your attention. Fears and insecurities about being needed or replaceable. Maybe you are afraid to be alone and quiet with yourself.
Don’t worry. You’re not alone.
Resting is not something we naturally do well. My first year of trying to learn to rest ended with me in tears almost every time. Why?
Because I was mad at myself that I wasn’t “resting well enough” (read: “resting productively enough”). I would plan a trip to the mountains. I would park and settle down for a long journal conversation about a topic I had been wanting to discuss with God. And I would promptly fall asleep. For hours. When I woke up I would be frustrated and upset (to put it nicely) that I had wasted all that time sleeping… there were things I wanted to get done! It seems obvious now, but back then I felt like a failure at resting. If that’s where I started from, you can learn to rest too!
Here are a few ground rules to help you start learning how to rest:
First, almost everyone needs to learn to rest.
Unless you grew up with a regular rest day in your family, you may have never truly rested before. Be patient with yourself. Allow yourself to be a student of rest, and don’t get upset about being a learner instead of an instant expert. After a day of rest you should feel better, not worse. But that may not happen right away. Give yourself time to practice. Learn from it, and try again next week.
One of the reasons I was so bad at resting was because I felt my worth was tied up in my productivity. When I took away the productivity, I felt exposed and worthless. I tried to hide this by “productively resting,” but God graciously did not allow that. I fell asleep again and again. I had to face my feelings of worthlessness, and my identity slowly became untangled from productivity. This did not just have a positive affect on my day of rest, but also in every aspect, and in every day of my life.
A day of rest will help you become who you truly are.
Second, let people know what you are doing.
It will take pressure off of you if people you communicate regularly with know not to expect a response from you that day. If there are situations where I am waiting to hear back from someone, or begin to have frequent communication with them, I let them know that I don’t do any work on Sunday. Depending on your schedule, your rest day may be Saturday, or Tuesday. Letting people know ahead of time saves some mental energy because you aren’t worrying about if they think you’re mad at them because you haven’t responded.
And sometimes you won’t have a chance to let people know beforehand. As difficult as it is in our instant gratification culture, try to resist the temptation to respond. One of the things you are resting from is being at the beck and call of your phone notifications. In fact, this is one of the main reasons I recommend turning your phone off, or leaving it in airplane mode.
A day of rest will help you be free from the pressure of NOW.
Third, the important thing is not what you do, but why you’re doing it.
If a sentence starts with “I need to” or “I should,” then DON’T!
Sometimes I want to organize or create. Working with my hands seems the most appealing thing to do, and so I do it! I am often too busy to “keep house,” and sometimes on this day I am refreshed by making an elaborate recipe, or making something out of wood. But sometimes the thought of doing anything like that sounds like work! Those are the days I take a nap, go on a drive, or read a just-for-fun book.
What you want to do may be very different for you. If you love hanging out with people, and the confines of your office are sucking your soul dry, then you may choose to have a day full of activity, friends and phone calls. Rest is often found in change, so listen to what your soul needs to feel refreshed. Do the things you care about. In “The Rest of God,” a book I highly recommend, Mark Buchanan notes that we know we are too busy “when we stop caring about the things we care about…” So slow down, and take time to do the things you care about.
I do recommend staying away from watching TV or movies in general, although if it’s an activity with family or friends it can be okay. TV and movies in general feed discontentment, instant gratification, urgency, entitlement, and self-shaming. Not the things you are going for… best to stay away or choose wisely. It’s better to find something different to do than zone out on Netflix.
A day of rest will help you enjoy life again.
It’s hard to express in this (already too long) post, but I believe that prioritizing a day of rest has had one of the largest impacts on my entire life. Have I done it perfectly? No. Do I sometimes miss weeks? Yes, although rarely. Because when I miss one, the next week is exhausting, draining, unproductive… so much so that sometimes I take an unplanned day off during the week because I wasn’t really getting anything done anyway. If you want to learn more, check out the book that I referenced earlier. It has been instrumental in helping me learn how to rest well. You can find it HERE. Rest is important in this journey of life. Let me know what questions or concerns you have after reading this post.
As we go, Onward!