You Deserve to Take a Rest. You Don’t Have to Earn It.
We have all typed, texted, or said, “enjoy your well-earned rest,” to someone about to take a vacation or start their retirement. Maybe, a friend or colleague has said it to you. You nod and smile, confident in the fact that, yes, you did indeed earn this rest.
Many of us were raised to believe that rest is something you earn. It is a reward and not something we deserve. The loose definition of earn is: to receive something in return for effort spent. We needed to earn a rest; we couldn’t simply take one if we hadn’t put in the work.
In other words, to be worthy of rest or entitled to the reward of taking a rest, we need to have worked darn hard for it. I bought into this for years.
I was raised in a culture that prized the Calvinistic work ethic: hard work was vital, and those who slacked off were not good citizens of the world. Martin Luther (a theologian credited with starting the Protestant Reformation) saw worldly work as “a duty which benefits both the individual and society as a whole.”
As a high-energy person, I thought this concept made perfect sense. I love being busy, and I am energized by activity. I married someone who requires only a few hours of sleep a night and makes the Energizer Bunny look like a sloth.
I look forward to getting into bed and tallying up all I achieved that day. If I was less busy, I had fewer things to put on the list. To me, all this busyness made perfect sense. Life was short. If you idled your time away, you would grow old without accomplishing much. What a waste!
Even reading, something I am passionate about, seemed like an indulgence. Shouldn’t I be doing something more useful and saving that book for the last 30mins before I turned off the light? Good heavens, I still had so much I needed to accomplish that day!
However, I began to think about what “accomplish” really meant and what price we paid for all this accomplishing?
Our modern world has removed much of the stresses and strains of previous generations. Labor-saving appliances are cheap and plentiful—no one in the developed world is scrubbing their clothes in a river. Food is easily obtained. Yes, my maximum energizer husband makes a weekly loaf of delicious sourdough bread, but he certainly doesn’t grow the wheat, mill the grain, etc.
Through a combination of modern connectivity and living in a pandemic, many of us have created lives that barely require we leave our homes. Anything you could possibly need can be delivered to your doorstep. Every person you need (or want) to speak to can be reached by virtual video.
So, if we have created these lives free of manual labor, why are we all exhausted?
Have we been sold a bill of goods? And, have I bought into this bill of goods? We’ve been told that a continued whirl of activity proves we are wringing every drop out of life. To make matters worse, now, even potential quiet moments can be jammed with something.
Waiting at a traffic light? Until the early 2000s, the most we could do was talk to others in the car or sing along to our music. Now, it is heads-down, phones up.
Walking the dog? People used to stroll along and look around. Now, it’s also heads-down, phones up, and earbuds / AirPods in—just in case you accidentally hear a bird chirp! Every second of our day is filled with something!
Is this why so many complain of waking up feeling utterly exhausted—even after eight hours of sleep?
I decided to look at the Blue Zone of the world (regions that have a higher than the usual number of people who live much longer and healthier than the average). Despite many spending most of their day in physical toil (farming, preparing food from scratch, walking wherever they need to go or doing household chores without any modern aids, etc.) they still set aside an hour or two for lunch with friends or family. Many take an afternoon rest after their midday meal.
It has taken me a while, and I am still not there yet, but I work at not feeling guilty for taking a rest. And, my rest comes in the form of reading, walking, meditating—I am a work in progress with the last one!
Maybe we can all start resting more if we step away from our devices and learn to say no. We need to prioritize rest as we prioritize other things.
Find the rest that works for you. A nap, listening to music, whatever lets your brain, mind, and body take a breath.
Are you in need of a rest? Think back. Have you ever read the same sentence or line over and over again and still not fully absorbed it? That is a sign you need to start scheduling rest periods.
Remember, you do not have to earn rest. If your body needs it, you deserve it.