- Martha Engeman
The Most Radical Act You Can do for Yourself
What if the most radical act that you can do for yourself has nothing to do with accomplishment or any type of external validation? What if the most radical act that you can do for yourself is actually to rest? I know, this goes against everything that we have been taught as a society. We are taught to work hard, to get ahead, to go, go, go. While all of those are fine and have their place, when we are focused on doing everything to please the outside world, we miss the opportunity to please ourselves.
Rest is the foundation of self care. If we are not rested, we have a harder time listening to what makes us tick. If we are exhausted, creativity tends to dry up. If we are tired, then doing the things to support us, like eating a healthy diet and exercising, are that much more difficult to do. We may reach for the closest stimulant to rev us up and the closest intoxicant to calm us down.
During the Covid lockdown in 2020, we moved as a society from the fast lane to the breakdown lane. While there were people who were operating on overdrive during that time (thank you essential workers), many of us paused. In that pause, people had time to rest and reflect about what they really wanted in their lives. I have heard many stories of people reevaluating their jobs, deciding to get training for a new job or to shift jobs, and really focusing on work/life balance. Some of my clients relished the calm in the break from their kids' over-filled schedules.
When we are constantly ingesting the societal mantra of “do more, be more, act more” it’s hard to prioritize rest. It goes directly against what is valued in society. The common thinking is you can rest when you retire. But what about all of the years until then?
Here’s why I think rest is a radical act: when we rest we can actually listen to what we really want for our lives. The more that we live our lives in congruence with what we really want and with our deepest values, the happier we are.
I do not always willingly embrace the message to rest. I feel like I should be doing, accomplishing, checking off items on the “to-do” list. What I have learned is that if I push through those times when my body and soul are calling for rest, my life doesn’t work nearly as well. And when I have ignored the message for too long, I have received an enforced rest break in the form of illness.
At a time when nature starts to slow down and the days get shorter, we get busier in preparation for the end of the year holidays. What if we allowed ourselves to be in more harmony with nature and were able to take things at a slower pace and rest when we need to do so? How different might our lives be?