The importance of rest

When I finally went to the doctor, more than two years ago now about anxiety, I had a lot of practical advice. One of the things that came up then, and later doing cognitive behavioural therapy, is the importance of rest. It’s something I find difficult. I’ve always been driven, although what drives me can vary, but the need to be creative, coupled with the need to do something good in the world has always got me out of bed in the morning.

As mother to a young child, that got quite out of control. Looking after a little one is a full time job, and trying to work full time on top of that and hold together voluntary work, some kind of social life and my own learning, resulted in regular burn out. I felt under a lot of pressure to achieve. Then, with my circumstances changing, the need to earn a living became ever more pressing, but there were even more pressures and demands on my time, solicitors cost a fortune, and so the pressure inside my head built, and built. I did not dare stop. I’d work until I couldn’t, only taking time out to do things for my child, or with him, but not having ‘me’ time and fighting, constantly against depression and anxiety. Being low and fearful is not conducive to fast or effective work, which feeds into a vicious cycle.

It took a deliberate decision to step back from that, and it was hard. Stopping, resting, taking time off felt like a luxury I had no right to. Pausing felt like cheating, I was waiting for someone to come round and tell me off. At the same time I also knew that if I didn’t do something, my mental health would continue to decline and the doctor made it clear that if I did not take care of myself I would get to the point where I simply couldn’t work. Watching other friends on facebook and out here in the real world wrestling with the exhaustion-depression combo, I know it’s not just me, and that’s why I wanted to write about it.

Right now in America, Obama is talking about how people need to work harder. It’s a line governments troll out now and then. Work harder and you’ll get to where you want to be. Work harder to achieve, to earn, to get results. Often it means work harder for fewer returns, less money, less down time. Work harder for someone else’s benefit. Work harder than what? Harder than whom? Get on that treadmill and all you can do is run faster and faster round the same circle until it destroys you.

Quality of life is not all about money. Rest is a big part of quality of life. Time to relax, contemplate, nurture wellbeing. Time to seek inspiration and be gently spiritual. Time for loved ones, and peace. What are we working for, if not that?

I’ve not worked as much in the last two years. I always stop at least an hour before I intend to sleep, often sooner. I take half days off. Sometimes even whole days. I’m daring to imagine I could have a proper holiday next year. I’d still like to do less, but I have a lot of conditioning to break, for that to be possible. I’ve noticed a thing though. I may spend less time working, but I get as much, if not more, done. Not being exhausted all the time, not running hard just to slide backwards. My writing has improved, my concentration is better, my memory and imagination more reliable.

Work harder? It’s not a good aspiration. It’s about keeping you down, keeping you too tired to pay attention to what is being done to you, or in your name. Work harder, so you have to buy in more services. Work harder, so someone else profits. It’s all part of the array of lies underpinning our dysfunctional culture. Every day, I have to make a conscious effort to avoid feeling like my every waking moment should be devoted to a money generating activity. Every day I am consciously spending time not being economically active. It’s a fight. I am healthier because of it. I am not on long term antidepressants. I am still able to work. I am not a cog in someone else’s machine.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

8 responses to “The importance of rest

  • Anthony Hilb

    I know exactly how you feel. There’s a section about this in a marvelous book called “Rework” by Jason Fried that really helped me. You should check it out.

  • John Andersen

    I work for a large American corporation and the “work harder” mantra is a daily drumbeat, even as the labor force shrinks to meet the financial objectives of the company. People smile while they tell us no raises or bonuses and just work harder and it will get better. All lies. A popular joke here goes: A wealthy businessman bought a brand new car and when he drove it to work, one of his employees complimented him on it. The boss the said, “We’ll, if you work hard and achieve more, then maybe next year I can get another one.”

    It’s not funny and it carries a measure of truth. If we do not stand up and take care of ourselves, the long-term effects can be devastating. I have days where I am so stressed that my short-term memory is almost gone, I can’t concentrate, and I don’t interact we’ll with my family. That said, I have two weeks of vacation between now and the year-end and I’m using every minute of it.

    Thanks, Nimue, this really needs to be said, and often.

  • Graeme K Talboys

    The nature of work is also important . If it is something you enjoy and provides you with basic securities, there is far less stress involved. I suspect many people work more than they should for things they don’t actually need (a bit like driving to the gym when if you simply walked the distance briskly you’d get the same benefit for a lot less cost).

  • Robin

    I blame that Puritan work ethic and its accompanying anhedonia for much that is wrong in the world today. One of the “job readiness” courses that I sometimes help teach places alarming emphasis on being prepared to work longer, harder, and all but suck the boss off if he asks in order to “succeed” in life with no regards to issues of exploitation, self-respect or healthy R&R time.

  • Alex Jones

    The mantra to work hard to pay for things that are needless is something people should ignore.

  • Jennifer Tavernier

    Exactly well said! spot on! I too am driven and a hard worker – until I realized that there is the next phrase, work SMARTER! So I went about (although it took time that I didn’t feel I had), – to spend some time looking and whittling, and combining, and throwing out those things that society (or someone else) -thinks we all need to participate in. (Usually an event of some sort that shows community involvement, even if you have no interest or clue or want to be there, particularly. “Root for the team.One “feels” obligated, unless they wish to be considered hermit-like. Even FB is pretty up on that one – you want to show support so you like tons of stuff, and then wade through it –

    So I whittled and sculpted… because, actually, I don’t mind being hermit-like at the moment. With 22 tenants, and move-ins and outs, I don’t get a whole lot of uninterrupted me-time. I am last on the list. (I put my tenants first, only because if I put it off, I still have to do it, and it is much easier to do it now, instead of trying to relax with projects hanging over your head.) And REST and sleep came up HIGH on the list. – as far as something I don’t do a lot of. One is always expecting that 3am knock or phone call, “I lost my keys”, or “There is a transient trying to sleep in the back yard, and he’s a bit in his cups”).

    It doesn’t happen alot, but I have been primed with anal responsibility to always keep my ear cocked. And THAT gets exhausting. You made a great point of “Stopping work”, and giving yourself an hour or so before sleeping. I actually notice I am removed from any communication devices now, by 9pm, at the latest. I have a telly in my bedroom. I turned that area into a haven, where it is books and writing, music or telly – (some very good history/documentaries on.) But reading or writing, I naturally hit endpoints now, and go sleep. I was astounded. 2 hours earlier (well, midnight latest) – and the day starts earlier. But the tenants don’t know I am up, so they show up around 11/12ish. My Gods! I had forgotten what it was like not to have to leap out of bed RUNNING! (Because you didn’t really get any sleep the night before, either)

    And all in all, the extra silence, and the sleep, (or at least – I am in a separate room that is NOT a Mgr/office/ space) – have made a big difference. I am still weening myself out of the “always-on-alert” mode. That will take a bit, but I DO slap my hands now, DON’T answer the phone for fairly meaningless silly social chats at night, (They are bored and want some friendly ear or entertainment) – because I have really seen the difference in the earlier cut off from the madding world… And my production (and willingness) the next day is more honestly enjoyable. Plus, I am getting more quality in faster, because I refuse to be interrupted. (Unless the house is on fire, or the plumbing bursts). That hasn’t happened yet. The world actually can do without out me on 24 hour guard. This is startling, and reassuring. I still don’t quite believe it, but am making my self get comfortable with acquiescing.

    So here here! to rights for self! My next goal is to get all of the tenant storage/Prop company stuff out of my spare bedroom and living room. Oh well, handle one thing, you notice the next. But I have found that listening to the constant conversations of storage items, (which I have to hold, time-limit) – is starting to drive me nuts. And everything in here talks. It is like living in the middle of a low-key circus or tea party… Funny how one never notices when one is always “on”,exhausted and runs all the time.
    Thanks for the post, in almost a celebration (and kick thy butt), on commonsense self rights – at least the most basic!

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