But learning how to rest properly is important, and not just when it comes to COVID recovery; rest is a recommended treatment for nearly everything that wears your body down, from the common cold to burnout. It’s recently become a key form of self-care for me personally: After testing positive for mononucleosis in early September and dealing with months of persistent and ongoing fatigue, brain fog, and muscle aches, I’ve become even more aware of the ways in which rest is both extremely necessary and incredibly difficult.
So, what does rest look and feel like, exactly? What “counts” as resting, and when are we simply swathing our toxic productivity in soft pants and a robe? And what might rest look like for the millions of people who don’t have access to a social safety net that will allow them to do it meaningfully and properly?
As part of SELF’s upcoming “Rest Week”—an editorial package that’s dedicated to doing less—I sought to come up with a better understanding of rest, so that we can all do a little more of it.
What does it mean to really, truly, rest?If you aren’t entirely sure what resting for your well-being actually means, you’re not alone: It is hard to define. “It’s going to depend on how that person feels and where they are in terms of getting back to their normal,” Jaime Seltzer, director of scientific and medical outreach at myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) advocacy group #MEAction, tells SELF.
“Rest looks and feels different for different people, and I don’t think there’s necessarily one particular explanation for what rest can look like,” Karen Conlon, LCSW, founder and clinical director of Cohesive Therapy NYC, tells SELF. “However, there could be a general consensus around what it could feel like. One might say, ‘When I feel rested, I don’t feel worried and my body doesn’t feel tense,’ or, ‘My body feels relaxed. When I am resting, my mind isn’t ruminating.’”
It’s important to consider both your body and your mind when it comes to rest. “Our minds and our bodies are connected, not just through physiology, but also through ways of communicating,” Conlon says. “I think that is so important for people to wrap their heads around and try to really accept: You can’t really take care of one without taking care of the other. They’re always in communication, informing each other what condition one is in.”
“Our brain activity, our neurological activity, is some of our most energetically demanding actually,” Seltzer says. “It isn’t just your muscles that do work. All of your organ systems do work, and your brain and your heart tend to demand a lot. So if you’re thinking very hard, you are definitely doing work.”
As I was working on this story, I came across a 2015 paper published in the journal Global Qualitative Nursing Research written by Margareta Asp, PhD, a professor in caring science at Mälardalen University in Sweden. In it, Dr. Asp makes the point that you can’t really understand rest without thinking about what it isn’t: “The essence of non-rest constitutes being strained between one’s limited resources and demanding expectations, which implies experiences of disharmony,” she writes.
Source : Self.com