For many of us, fall ushers in a new kind of busy. We are finding our new rhythms for the school year. Extracurricular activities are starting up again. Seasonal holiday activities are on our minds. Home and garden projects demand our attention. And all of it crowds around our regular, daily to-do’s.
We might miss our lazy days of summer, or look back on our vacation with longing. But we accept our new normal and move forward. From the looks of things, everyone else is just as busy as we are. And when rush and hustle and grind seem normal, we don’t always think to question it.
We keep striving because we believe our worth is tied to our accomplishments. We believe that taking a step back while everyone continues to push forward will result in loss, in dreams deferred.
But I’m learning to embrace the spiritual practice of slowing, of play, and of rest. I am clinging to the truth that God’s love for me is not contingent on what I accomplish. Intentionally choosing to go against what our culture says I should be doing feels radical at times. But there’s a freedom in letting go of the world’s definition of success.
The spiritual practice of rest has at times been elusive to me. I have bought into some of the myths of rest:
- Rest is for after the to-do list is all checked off.
- Rest is for after the kids are in bed.
- Rest is laziness.
- Rest is selfish.
- Rest is any cessation of work.
- Rest is only helpful in large chunks of time.
- I don’t have enough time to rest.
I struggle with feeling like rest is lazy and selfish. As soon as I sit down, my brain starts up with a litany of “you should really…” like a long line of ticker tape running across my line of vision. It takes some deliberate self-talk to ignore the “shoulds.”
But Adele Ahlberg Calhoun reminds us that rest is also a “should”:
“God created us in his image. He is a God who works and then rests. When we rest we honor the way God made us. Rest can be a spiritual act—a truly human act of submission to and dependence on God who watches over all things as we rest.”
So how can we incorporate more rest into our daily rhythms? Here are some suggestions that have been helpful to me:
Aim low and go slow
Ditch that long to-do list. Remove any item that’s not strictly necessary and keep 1-3 essentials that you need to get done over and above the daily givens like cooking dinner. This practice has been life-giving for me because I no longer feel overwhelmed when thinking about the day ahead. When I check off those 1-3 items, I have won the day!
(Psst! You can download a printable Win the Day calendar in my free for you library when you subscribe to my newsletter!)
When you aim low, you can go slow. Pause between activities and take deep breaths. Slow your physical pace. When you only have the essentials on your to-do list, you can unhurry your heart.
Schedule down time (and protect it)
This will look different for everyone. Maybe your baby’s afternoon nap is your down time. Maybe you’re able to block off one whole day a week when you don’t do any unnecessary work. Maybe it’s a commitment to treat your lunch break as a true break. The point is, sometimes we need to put rest on the calendar in order for it to happen.
Be intentional about the way you rest.
Not all rest is created equal! There’s physical rest, mental rest, and soul rest. Physical rest is for your body: it’s putting your feet up, taking a nap, sitting still. Mental rest is giving your brain a break: it might look like going for a walk to clear your head or keeping your hands busy with a pleasant task like knitting or baking. Soul rest looks different for every soul: it’s those activities that make you feel more like you. It’s engaging in something that brings you delight. Maybe it’s painting or paddleboarding or poetry.
Be aware of the kind of rest you need. We often turn to scrolling social media instead of picking a soul-filling activity. We often stay up late to binge Netflix instead of going to bed early. Be wise in how you choose to rest!
Ditch the all-or-nothing mindset
We sometimes think rest isn’t worth it unless we can block off a few hours for it at least (better yet, a whole day or a whole weekend!) And while those longer stretches of time are wonderful, they are much harder to come by. But instead of giving up on the idea of rest, take advantage of those smaller pockets of time. They have restorative value, too.
- Those ten minutes you have in the school pick-up line.
- The 15 minutes you have between your errands.
- The time you spend in the lobby of the doctor’s office
- The thirty minutes you have for lunch.
- Those five minutes your toddler is occupied without you.
It is often in these small pockets of time that we start scrolling our social media feeds. This often leaves us feeling restless, discontent, and dissatisfied. What if instead, we scrolled through a book on our phone? Or listened to a short podcast (like The Daily Poem, Things Above, The Next Right Thing)? Or engaged in some deep breaths and centering prayer? What if you took a ten minute walk around your neighborhood, intent on finding three beautiful things?
Only you know the activities that fuel your soul, and I would encourage you to think of a few fun things you can do in short spurts that are more restful than opening a social media app.
Rest is a spiritual practice
Rest is a gift that many of us leave unopened. I hope you can take hold of this encouragement from Adele Calhoun in her book The Spiritual Disciplines Handbook and claim the gift of holy leisure!
“We are meant to live sane lives that partake of a deep and playful holy leisure. There is enough time in each day for all that God requires of us. And part of what he requires is rest. So settle in and breathe deeply of his gift of rest.”
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