We, as a culture, suck at resting. We truly do. We teach kids that they must have the perfect GPA and a job and multiple extracurriculars to get into competitive colleges, to get into competitive grad schools, to get into competitive careers. We have an economy that leaves some people unable to afford a real day off on any kind of regular basis. If they can afford a day off, there’s a good chance they work at a company that doesn’t encourage it. Although American workers are certainly not as deep into workaholism as those in some other countries, we are being trained to embrace the hustle and spend every waking moment being productive. The modern, put-together adult must have everything together and perfectly placed in their hour-by-hour iPhone calendar. Not a moment to waste when everyone has to have 6-pack abs and work out daily, grab drinks and network, work overtime at the full-time job, do a side hustle to pay off those student loans, date, keep a perfectly clean home, constantly update a beautifully curated closet with an outfit for every occasion that is on trend, meal prep, and of course stay up-to-date on every news story and relevant series on whatever streaming network is in the limelight that week.
Did that run-on sentence wear you out? Because just typing it all out there has my head spinning.
There seems to be a consistent issue when it comes to prioritizing rest, particularly here in the U.S. (I can’t speak to other countries, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s hitting other parts of the world too.) Although studies don’t seem to show a significant decline in how many hours of sleep adults get, it’s not uncommon to hear people brag or joke about how little sleep they are running on. It’s seen as a common miserable experience, or even a badge of honor in some communities, to sleep less in the name of doing more. After all, if they can run on 3-4 hours of sleep a night, why not? The mindset surrounding this seems to be that, simply, making more hours in a day by cutting back on sleep is a simple way to get more accomplished.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t tend to pan out well, as lack of sleep has a significant impact on productivity and focus both at work and in personal life. There’s a reason that “work smarter, not harder” is a cliche. Putting all this focus on just getting more hours on the clock, staying up longer, and checking more boxes does not necessarily mean we are getting more done. Rather, it means we are likely doing worse at the things we are trying to accomplish, and missing out on time that could be spent recovering from a day of hard work and preparing for the next one. On top of this, lack of sleep and too much stress is connected to an array of long-term health issues, and that’s assuming you’re starting out healthy to begin with. For those who develop this mindset while dealing with mental illness or chronic health condition, the consequences can be even more severe.
So, why are we cutting out sleep and rest if it’s so important? No one really knows for sure. Maybe it’s yet another downside of consumerism, maybe it’s all the pressure of hustle culture, maybe it’s just us racing alongside technology trying to be quicker, smarter, better. Whatever the cause, it’s not doing us any favors. We have to learn how to slow down, and not just to keep our streak going on that meditation app someone we follow on Instagram posted about.
We need to get better at setting aside time to rest, intentionally, purposefully, and specifically. While there is a lot to be said for the value of routines and simplicity in day-to-day life to reduce stress and make life more restful, it is not the same as setting aside specific hours or a full day on a regular basis to rest and recover. We have to embrace rest as more than just checking off the rest box so we can go about our business. It is about refilling our cup, instead of flipping it over day after day and wondering why there’s nothing left to pour from it.
Today, rest looks like some YouTube videos on minimalism, therapy homework, journaling, and reading. Tomorrow, it will include taking advantage of local theaters’ $5 special to see a movie my partner and I are excited about. Who knows about the next day. There’s no one-size-fits-all template for rest, it has to be about what refreshes you. If you don’t know what that is, keep an eye out for tomorrow’s post – I’ll be sharing some frugal and free things to try for when you don’t know where to start. In the meantime, try adding something into your day that will provide just a little bit of peace, stillness, and joy. Swing by the library and rent a movie, or see if your library uses hoopla. Pick up that book you’ve been meaning to read for months that has been collecting dust on a shelf or coffee table. Dig up those baking supplies and whip up a new recipe (Minimalist Baker is my go-to for simple and consistently delicious recipes). Use the lotion you’ve been hoarding and wrap yourself up in your favorite soft and cozy things. It doesn’t have to be perfect or Instagrammable to be restful, peaceful, and a moment that refills your cup so you have something to give your job, your passions, and your loved ones tomorrow.
Rest. Refill your cup. Embrace the stillness, the silence, the joy of the moment, the little thing that makes you smirk. Embrace rest, whatever that looks like in your life.