Miriam Kerins shares why we must make time in our lives for rest. With the weekend ahead, we ask you to think about how you can make time to rest over the next few days.
In today’s world, we often perceive life as being busy, chaotic and stressful, always on the go, which often leads to feelings of being overwhelmed, exhausted, fatigued, anxious and even burnt out. For us to succeed in life and to be the best versions of ourselves, no matter what avenue of life that may be in – first and foremost, above anything else, we need to be well.
To be the best mother or father, the best CEO or director, employer or employee, friend or colleague, husband or wife, daughter or son, you must be healthy; you must be well. Well in your mind as well as your body.
For me, this is a question I get asked over and over again – “Miriam, how do I become well?”
One of the first ways to become well – is to find rest. And to find rest regularly. Rest and recovery are vital for our overall health and happiness. We don’t need more noise, or more busyness, what we need and crave is more stillness, more silence, more rest and more recovery.
When we allow ourselves the luxury of rest and silence, we almost rediscover, through this process called pausing, the things that bring us joy.
Often clients say to me, “I don’t have time to rest” or “Me, rest? I can’t sit still”.
I think it’s important to note that rest can take on many different forms. Resting doesn’t just mean ‘doing nothing’. Practising rest is one of the basic fundamental needs of human beings; it doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. It doesn’t cost anything at all. Finding rest is about finding some stillness or silence in your life.
It’s about allowing yourself the time and space to get off the treadmill of life for a few minutes every day to unplug, to switch off, to breathe, to tune in to your inner world of emotions, feelings, thoughts as well as your physical sensations and sensitivities.
Resting is all about changing something from your normal day-to-day activities, and switching your awareness to using a different part of your brain and body.
If we use the same part of our body and/or mind too much without switching it off or allowing it time to recover and repair – it becomes overwhelmed and over-stretched, which in turn drives anxiety and stress. This constant usage of similar areas and pathways leads to other areas becoming underutilised and undernourished — areas such as creativity, focus, clarity, rest, repair, reflection, fun and laughter.
As mentioned above, rest can take on different forms, and because we as human beings are all different and bio-individual, it’s essential to find something that works best for you, for your lifestyle, for your body, for your mind, for your soul.
I like to categorise rest into two main sections:
• Gentle rest – such as sleep, meditation, breathwork, pranayama, silence and mindfulness.
• Active rest and recovery – such as journaling, painting, colouring, yoga, stretching, mindful walking, massage, reflexology, holistic energy treatments.
What are the benefits of resting and allowing your body to recover?
By allowing the body and mind to rest, you enable the body to activate its inner healing cascade. This allows the body to return to its natural state of homeostasis, enabling the body to repair, recover and reset. When we rest we automatically activate our para-sympathetic nervous system, which is our rest, digest and repair system – the exact opposite to our sympathetic nervous system which is fight or flight – a state of being many of us spend far too long operating from today.
Some benefits of resting and repairing:
• Increased productivity and performance
• Reduced risk of disease and illness
• Reduced stress and anxiety
• Increased clarity, focus and concentration
• Increased happiness and sense of peace
• Increased level of inner ease and harmony
Our entire bodies/systems are built to survive and thrive in a series of short sprints, where we go at high speeds for short periods and then pause or rest to allow the body to recover and repair so we can perform consistently and focus again and again.
Life is not a marathon; it’s a series of sprints, the quality of rest and recovery is what determines the quality of our next sprint.
Therefore it so vital that we start living our life like so, going but then stopping. Living but then pausing, being but then resting. Doing but then reflecting. Acting but then processing. Operating but then feeling.
Another common question I get asked is, why do so many of us find it difficult to take time to rest?
I believe this to be the case because we mis-prioritise time. There are 168 hours in every week and that will not or cannot ever be changed. Time is not going faster; time is constant. Time has never changed. What has changed is how fast-paced our thoughts and minds have become.
It’s not that we should try to manage time, we need to manage what we prioritise and what we dedicate our time and energy. We must challenge ourselves to be honest about how much time we spend on social media, watching tv, scrolling on the internet, sending Snapchat or WhatsApp messages and so on. What if we were to use this time for more productive morning or night time routines or rituals?
The brain is highly capable of resetting itself even if we use short rest practices that range from as little as 15 seconds to 10 or 15 minutes. Elite athletes have mastered the art of mentally and emotionally resetting in seconds using simple reset triggers. Building simple triggers and routines into our day are vital ways of utilising the time we have in a far more productive way. Some of these restful techniques include things like:
• Taking five deep breathes regularly throughout your day (e.g. five deep breathes before eating your breakfast, five deep breathes before you start your car, five deep breathes before you turn on your computer, while you boil the kettle etc. etc.)
• Saying a simple prayer
• Doing a 3-minute body scan
• Doing some yoga or stretching
• Saying positive affirmations
And then, of course, I get asked – well HOW do we rest? And what are the best ways we can take time out to rest our bodies and minds?
One of the ways to reduce stress and increase rest in your life is to give yourself a break. Give yourself permission to self-care and nurture. I think it is very important that we learn that self-care is not selfish.
In order to find some ease and relaxation in our lives we need to first stop, listen and feel. In doing this, we can take some time out from the busyness of life and connect to a space of stillness.
Below are some simple yet very effective ways to slow down and rest, that can be done on a daily basis without any fancy props or any expense.
There is no right or wrong way to meditate. The most important thing that you can do is to bring a passive attitude – allowing, not forcing. Experiencing, not controlling. Don’t worry about meditating the “right” way – just let it happen; however, it happens without worrying about the outcome. Allow yourself to be comfortable and acknowledge thoughts as they come and go, not attaching to them or fighting them, simply observing them, like clouds floating by, see them and let them go and bring your awareness back to your soft breath in and out or to a specific mantra or word like Om.
2) Pranayama – Breathing
By practising mindful breathing, we focus on our breath – which is our life force energy – our Prana. Once we engage with deep mindful breathing, we reduce the anxiety and increase the resting ability of the body by activating our parasympathetic nervous system. When we engage in deep mindful breathing we reduce stress and nervous tension in our central nervous system. When we are anxious or overwhelmed – our nerve endings can become irritated and excited. They become heightened and activated, and we thus, become “on edge” and anxious and develop nervous tension and irritability which eventually will lead to sheer exhaustion and burn out. By activating this para-sympathetic nervous system, it reduces cortisol, our stress hormone, thus reducing heart rate, blood pressure and anxiety.
Try taking five deep breathes regularly throughout the day. It is one of the most powerful tools you will ever have, and it’s completely free.
3) Saying a prayer or cultivating a spiritual practice
4) Doing a body scan
5) Yoga and stretching
6) Mindful walking
7) Fresh air and nature
8) Saying positive affirmations and practising positive psychology
9) Practising visualisation
10) Journaling, colouring, painting
And lastly, I get asked what if I don’t have time to rest? Or how can we (and why should we) make it our priority? And how can I learn to slow down a little?
My answers to these are quite simple. We can tell ourselves the same story over and over again – “I don’t have time”, “I’m too busy”, “time is going too fast”.
However, If we allow ourselves 15 minutes a day, this is only 1% of your day. You can give the other 99% of your day away. All that I am asking is, can you give yourself 1% of your day? If you were to allow yourself this 15 minutes every day to practice some mindfulness, meditation, breathing, stretching, walking, getting some fresh air, having a bath, journaling, colouring – whatever it is you like to do, by giving yourself permission to do this you will not only dramatically change your life but it will also have a huge potential positive impact on those around you. As you allow your mind and body to rest and repair, you become healthier, and you become happier.
If we can begin to change the story we are telling ourselves and start to become more emotionally aware – of where our mind and emotions are in each and every given day; we can begin to re-create our future through using reset triggers like breathwork, positive psychology, meditation and so on.
I would encourage you all to make a commitment and decision to get into the driving seat of your own life. This is your own life. It’s not a dress rehearsal. Don’t dim your light to fit in or people please. Allow yourself to be the best version of yourself. Allow yourself to dream, allow yourself 15 minutes a day to self-care, allow yourself to express your innermost self and ignite that inner beauty and brilliance that is within each and every one of us.
For us to express this inner light – we need to be well, we need to be energised, we need to be revitalised.
Permit yourself to rest and repair and watch your world unfold.
Miriam will be running a series of Breathe & Be yoga events next year. They will take place one Saturday every month in Union Café, Mount Merrion, Dublin. The first date is Sat 13 Jan, followed by 24 Feb and 24 March. We’ve attended Miriam’s Breathe & Be yoga before, and it was a beautiful, spiritual day of restorative yoga and real conversations about life – we highly recommend attending and experiencing it for yourself.