Rest and Restoration
In coaching conversations I am hearing that people are working longer hours now than before the pandemic. Work pressure seems to be higher, with smudged boundaries between work and home life for those working from home. Many are resting less and feeling more tired and close to burnout in some cases. Some feel that they are about to go over the cliff of mental illness.
Where do you find yourself? When did you last work “only” 8 hours in a day? When last did you take a whole weekend off? Are you keeping a balance between rest, restoration and work?
A few years ago, after a particularly intense few months, we went away for a holiday. Despite spending considerable time resting and sleeping, I returned feeling just as tired as before. This is when I realised that just “doing nothing” as in “resting” might be necessary for some of my down time, but did not restore and revitalize me. I needed to be more intentional about the way that I rested.
As I write this I am actually on a solitary retreat while I housesit. In fact, this is the longest solitary retreat I have had. At first, I just enjoyed the silence. Sometimes silence can seem intimidating, even frightening. We often have such noisy lives. We fill the silent spaces with radio, television, netflix, podcasts, anything…so that we are never alone with our thoughts. And yet, there can be such an experience of restoration in silence, a rest for our ears and information-absorbing minds. There is often also an awakening of our creativity as we let go of our busyness to ponder life and our role in it.
Maybe you have been isolated more than usual during this pandemic period and the idea of more solitary time is the last thing you need right now! Or perhaps you are an extrovert who gets more energy from being around others. The experience of just doing something different to whatever your present situation is, can bring restoration with it. There is a reason for that cliché “a change is as good as a holiday”.
I do not have the opportunity for a silent retreat on a regular basis, but I do make a concerted effort to take Sundays off. I follow Tim Keller’s advice to include three type of activities into my day – some time of reminding myself that I am a creature made by my Creator; some time of doing something I enjoy that is different to my work; and some unstructured time, where I do something I feel like on the spur of the moment.
I am also known for being a multi-tasker, but that can be exhausting to keep up. So I try to be intentional about slowing down and doing some things with a more concentrated focus on the task, e.g. eating and enjoying the pleasurable sensations of taste, smell and texture with gratitude; stopping for a moment to appreciate the bird outside the window, or soaking in the beautiful sunset; journaling in the early morning silence; sitting still as I listen to a piece of music to the end…My family will attest to the fact that I have not arrived in this area, but there is progress.
How can you plan activities of rest and restoration into your next day, week, month?
About activities that can restore and refresh us from a different point of view: