So, I was lying on the sofa in the sun on Sunday afternoon; the boys were watching something in the other room, Rob was doing something useful elsewhere in the house and I was, well, just lying there.
The usual ‘I really ought to…’ thoughts took no time to quickly zoom in and race through my mind. You know the ones: ‘I ought to do some work’, ‘the dishwasher needs emptying’, ‘I really should check on the kids’, ‘what needs doing before tomorrow’, etc., etc., etc. And do you know what, I just decided no, I’m not doing that right now. Right now, I’m savouring a moment of rest in my day. And let me tell you, it was glorious!
Now, I don’t tell you this to be smug or rub your noses in your own busy lives, I tell you this to demonstrate that getting a sense rest when we need it often has to be a conscious choice; we have to make a decision NOT to do the list of never-ending jobs, tasks and responsibilities.
Allowing myself to enjoy this moment doesn’t come naturally to me. I’ve worked on recognising and accepting moments of rest and respite in my day because:
I know how hard it is to find them (realistically, in my life right now, five minutes is a more achievable goal than an hour, so I need to grab what I can)
I know how important it is to have a regular sense of respite so that I can feel that I’m doing better at all the other bits of life (tiredness increases stress and the feeling that I’m not able to cope)
I’m not saying it’s easy, I’m not saying it’s always enough (more often than not it is a snatched five minutes), but I am saying that it’s important- we all need rest to be able to function.
Rest doesn’t have to mean sleep; we can find a sense rest in activity. When we find the perfect combination of task, situation and personal qualities and goals, we can experience activity as restful and replenishing. I’m hoping to show that by noticing and enjoying the small moments of rest in our day, we can have a big impact on how we feel and function (without needing to expend lots of extra energy or massively change our routines).
Also, and I think this is really crucial, I’m saying that to do this is a skill; it can be learnt, adopted into our daily routines and hopefully become a habit rather than a conscious effort.
So, how can we find moments of rest in our lives during lock down?
We all need rest, but often, and particularly given the increased stressors of managing the current situation, the opportunity to dedicate time to relaxation or rest can feel few and far between (and low down the priorities list).
I tend to think about this as missing time in both ‘calm and alert’ and ‘under alert’ (look back a couple of blogs to the one about ‘doing ok’ for more details on the sensory ladder if you’re interested in this). ‘Under alert’ is also known as a ‘rest and digest’ state: down time for our nervous system. We all need this to replenish energy and resources so that we can function effectively.
Without enough rest time, life gets harder and harder because we don’t have the resources available for doing everything we need to do.
On top of that, when we’re manging increased stressors because we’re dealing with change and don’t have our automated daily habits to save us energy and resources, the small moments of rest, of relaxation can be lost as we work hard to survive the avalanche of our 'new normal' of everyday life.
So, how do you find the time to get some rest, a bit of respite, frankly, a break from the relentless monotony of lockdown?
One way is to think about the activities that usually give you a sense of relaxation, of joy, of rest and work out why they work for you. Once you know the ‘ingredients’ of what works for you and a little bit of why, you can try and find elements of those activities in your everyday life.
We tend to know some of the big stuff that helps us whether that be yoga, running, knitting, reading, crafts, cycling, going out for a meal with friends etc. etc. etc. All those things you do for you; doing your thing, when and how works best and in the way that’s satisfying for you. But, how often can we do these things through the natural course of the day? Especially now that we’re all in restricted circumstances. How easy is it to carve out half an hour or an hour to do something just for you? How can you find the ‘just right environment’ in the constraints of lockdown? And if you miss that window (other things taking priority sound familiar?), how else do you replenish your resources in the midst of all the demands on your time and energy?
So, my suggestion is to really think about why that activity, in that environment makes you feel good. Know this and you’re on the way to finding the smaller moments that bring a bit of that feeling into your daily life (as usual I’ve put my example and a template below and in the file share section of the website in case that’s useful).
I know its not the same, I know it perhaps doesn’t feel enough, but, if we can consciously gather up enough small moments of rest and relaxation throughout the day or week, perhaps we’ll feel less tired, less stressed, a touch happier. Perhaps we’ll even have enough resources built up to push ourselves to prioritise our need for a break. Maybe, just maybe, we'll go and dedicate a bit of time to finding some more rest and in doing so, find more energy.
The activity that you miss and the reasons why you miss it will be personal and particular to you; there might be similarities with other people, there might not; that doesn’t matter. What’s important is consciously thinking about what you need to feel calm, relaxed and rested through activity and then (and here’s the challenge) decide to stop, acknowledge and enjoy those moments. Allow them in, allow yourself to enjoy them without guilt, it’s only five minutes, the rest of the ‘to do list’ can wait.
By replenishing our resources, we’re preparing ourselves to do better in the tasks that await us when the five minutes has passed.
The more you do this, the better you’ll get at it. The more often you stop and notice, the more familiar the pathway towards relaxation can feel. The conscious lowering of your ‘on’ nervous system for small moments throughout your daily life will leave you with more resources to manage the challenges around the corner.
It’s about a sense of calm, a feeling of respite, a flavour of joy in the small everyday moments.
Thanks for reading, take care,
Next time, the sense of a loss of purpose and why it matters to who we are and how we feel.