Quiet your Mind and Body
how to know when you need more rest
For those of us who are productive “doing” types, it can be a significant challenge to get into a state of rest as defined as motionless and inactive. Our bodies quickly grow restless and our minds get anxious.
Perhaps a better definition of rest for our personality would be peace of mind and spirit.
It’s hard for productive, achieving women to quiet our minds or our bodies. But there is difference between the two. There’s a time for both, and they don’t necessarily have to happen together.
body and mind
We need times when our bodies can stop moving, while we are still awake. A body that is in motion from the moment of waking until crashing into bed at night can’t sustain that pace.
But we also need times of mental rest. A mind and heart in constant motion is not healthy, either.
Some of us struggle with or avoid the amount of silence or inactivity needed to mentally rest. We turn on music, television, or something to fill the silence and we busy our hands with something that feels productive.
Perhaps we are fearful that resting will cause others to see us as less valuable. We’ve wrapped our identity around productivity and what we do, so slowing down makes us feel worthless.
Perhaps we’re avoiding a rush of uncomfortable thoughts and emotions we don’t want to face.
Or perhaps silence and inactivity are simply a challenge to our personality. As soon as we slow down or stop, all of the interesting opportunities and possibilities bombard us.
It’s not anxiety or fear. It’s simply a love of doing. A joy and love for the work that we do and a desire to keep doing it.
how much is enough
If we’re avoiding rest out of fear of those negative emotions, it’s clear we need to stop.
But if we’re fighting our active personalities, how do we know how much rest is enough?
Unfortunately for those of us who like clear-cut formulas, there isn’t a “perfect” amount of mental rest. The amount needed depends on the circumstances we’re currently experiencing.
Just as when we lose significant sleep, we may need a nap the next day or a longer night over the weekend, if our minds have been racing for an extended period, we need a longer mental break.
And just as getting regular healthy sleep allows us to get through a day of physical movement with perhaps just a few quick breaks, if we’re getting regular times of silence and reflection, we may not need extended time.
In other words, the longer life has been in crazy-mode, the more of a break we may need.
testing our energy levels
A good test for whether or not we need more physical energy is watching what happens with our bodies when we stop moving. If as soon as you sit down to read or reflect, you fall asleep, then your physical energy has been compromised.
But here’s a test for your need for mental rest:
Do you feel mentally energized to face your day?
Or when you wake in the morning, do you feel like you’re emotionally worn down? Do your days feel like one long push for the weekend so you can “turn off your brain”?
Are you energized for the challenges of your life and your Dream? If not, then you may need downtime.
Maybe it’s only a few minutes in the middle of the morning. Maybe it’s a whole day in the middle of the week.
Being self aware is critical. We must listen to what our bodies and hearts are telling us. It’s important to know when a nap will make us more productive, but it’s also important to know when sitting and doing nothing will make us more effective.
so many benefits
And there are many benefits to this mental rest that go beyond making us more effective. We are able to reflect, to recognize where we are emotionally. To attend to neglected emotions, or thoughts stirring that we haven’t given time to. Looking at what’s not at peace in our mind and spirit. If we have a tendency to avoid the inner life or run from difficult emotions, then we must take the time to pay attention, feel the feelings, think the thoughts, address and bring them back to where they need to be.
We also reconnect with our purpose in those moments of mental rest. We reconnect with God and His plan for us. We remember there are higher reasons, purposes, and goals than our to-do list for today. We get a chance to take a higher view of what’s going on in life and reconnect with all of it, to get the space and clarity we desperately need.
When we open up space in our day and life, it also signals to those around us that we are available. When people see that we’re in a restful period of the day, it makes it easier for them to approach us, especially if our personalities tend to make people feel that we’re always “too busy.”
Not having a to-do list for a time gives friends and family the freedom to connect with us.
Building those times into life may seem like too much white space, but it will often get filled with unexpected and valuable connection with others that could not have been planned.
can we do one without the other
For many of us, complete inactivity is very difficult. Can we take this needed mental break without being physically still?
Definitely. If the body has no need for complete rest but the mind does, find a way to slow down your brain while you’re still in motion.
Do something with your hands like knitting or painting, or perhaps with your whole body like walking or other exercise.
Resist the urge to do mindless activities with your body while also doing distracting activities with your brain. The goal is not to turn off your mind with TV or other screen-time.
The goal is to let it go silent and rested for awhile, to see thoughts, emotions, and creativity bubble up to the surface.
Netflix and Facebook tamp these things down and never let them surface. Activities with screens and/or noise are not the mental break you may think they are.
Mental rest can feel anxious and challenging. But when we’re doing it well and being self-aware, it allows us step into the fullness of who we’re supposed to be. It allows us to be connected to our purpose, to gain mental energy, to connect with the people around us. It gives meaning to the spaces in our life, when we give ourselves a simple moment to breathe.