Making Time and Space for Rest

By Courtney Weider

Rest is essential for our physical and mental health. Here are practical suggestions for breaking the cycle of busyness and incorporating rest into your days.

It is easy to get swept up in the daily hustle and bustle of our lives, forgetting to pause and make space for rest. Over time, this can lead to exhaustion, burnout, illness, and injury. If we find ourselves stuck in this pattern, we need to reset and take intentional steps to incorporate rest into our days.

Rest is essential for both our mental and physical health. Though often framed as a “nice to have” in a society that worships productivity, it is actually a “need to have” if we are to develop a sustainable daily routine. Understanding why we keep ourselves so busy is a key first step in making time and space for rest.

Keeping busy as a form of avoidance

In some cases, busyness is employed as a coping mechanism to avoid having to face certain issues head-on, such as loneliness or anxiety. If you stay busy enough, you can convince yourself that everything is fine. 

This might serve you for a short period. However, like many things our brains do when they are trying to protect us from pain, that often backfires and the burnout just adds to preexisting issues that we eventually need to address. If you find this happening, try recognizing and naming it to break the cycle.

The concept of resting might feel scary because it means you will be alone with your thoughts, or that uncomfortable feelings that the busyness was keeping down will now be coming back up. Working through those feelings and reaching out to a loved one or professional for support, depending on the severity of what you are experiencing, can help you begin to embrace the idea of rest so that it is no longer something to be feared.

Giving yourself permission to rest

The concept of resting can feel foreign, even triggering, to some people who have been conditioned to believe that they simply do not deserve it. Resting can then feel wrapped in guilt and shame. But the reality is that rest need not be earned. It is something we all need and deserve, regardless of how productive we were that day.

How do we give ourselves permission to rest in a society that glorifies hustle culture? You can start with small moments each day to set aside for restoration. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

  • Block out time to step away. Set up recurring blocks on your calendar for a break so that you actually take that time to physically and mentally step away from school, work, or daily responsibilities to recharge.
  • Create a list of things that feed your soul. Have a list of activities you enjoy but normally wouldn’t have time to do, then start doing one each day. This can be a helpful place to start if you’re unsure what rest looks like for you; just be sure this doesn’t morph into another to-do list or something you feel like you need to check off. A few examples:
    • Going for a walk around the neighborhood
    • Reading a chapter of a book for pleasure
    • Playing with your pets
  • Remember that you deserve to rest. Still have emails in your inbox? You deserve to rest. Didn’t get all your errands done? You still deserve to rest! The idea that we need to “earn” rest is outdated and harmful to our collective mental health.

If we don’t make space for rest, our minds and bodies make that space for us in the form of burnout, injuries, mental health issues, and more. By being proactive and giving yourself the gift of rest you so rightfully deserve, you are taking a preventative measure to preserve your mental and physical health.

Different needs for different seasons

The reality is that rest is going to look different for everyone. Depending on the season of life you are in, rest might mean entirely different things. There are various forms of physical, mental, and emotional rest that you can practice, depending on what you need in the moment.

A high school student, a young professional, and a new parent will all have different schedules and priorities, creating unique opportunities and needs around rest. Just like so many aspects of personal wellness, there is no cookie-cutter method that applies to everyone. It is important to be realistic about the season you are in and take steps to meaningfully incorporate rest into your daily life, whatever that might look like.

Surrounding yourself with people who share this approach can also be an important piece of the puzzle. At the very least, you can share your needs with loved ones and invite them to join you in your commitment to making space for rest moving forward. You never know, this might also give them the permission they need to do the same.

Leaning into rest during treatment

Treatment is hard work. You are putting in the time to process feelings, develop skills, and create new routines so that you can live the life you deserve in recovery. Though it might feel counterintuitive, it is especially important to be intentional about making space for rest during and after treatment. During this time, you have the support around you to process what might be coming up so that you can establish a healthy relationship with rest for your ongoing recovery.

It is worth noting that rest need not be practiced in isolation. When some people think of rest, they picture meditating alone in an empty room. That is certainly an option if it feels restorative for you, but resting can also be done in the company of loved ones! Taking a step back to join a friend at your local coffee shop or inviting a loved one over to watch a movie are also great options, as long as you find these activities restful and restorative. You get to define what rest means for you.

Setting clear boundaries and being intentional about incorporating rest into your day sets you up for physical health and mental wellness. Remember that you deserve rest and can start making space for it today.

Written by

Courtney Weider

Courtney Weider is the content manager and writer at Eating Recovery Center and Pathlight Mood & Anxiety Center. This role combines her passion for both storytelling and mental health advocacy to…

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