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Rest Isn’t A Dirty Word – Here’s Why We Need To Celebrate It

“The romanticisation of busyness may be coming from a deep desire to prove ourselves and our worth in a world that still values our ability to produce and be productive, over our wellbeing and happiness,” Empowerment Coach + Mindset Mentor, Emily Harris tells me. 

“We can so easily begin to internalise having spare time as ‘being lazy’ or ‘not being productive enough’, and the belief ‘if you’re not rushed off your feet then you’re not worthy’ can be easily absorbed from the ‘strong independent woman’ archetype that’s commonly depicted in movies and on social media. This characteristic is put on a pedestal and can cause us to create unrealistic expectations for ourselves and what we think we should be achieving and producing in our lives. As a result, we end up creating stories around busyness and the need to fill our calendars with unachievable amounts of to-do’s in a bid to prove our worth.”

And Emily is of the opinion that the pandemic has only worsened matters: “You might find yourself valuing busyness now more than ever, because, since going from almost no plans for two years, to a summer of post-pandemic-calendar-ramming, our nervous systems are feeling more strained than ever… and it can be easier and much more straightforward to go through the motions and operate on autopilot, than to feel our stress-related feelings,” she adds. “As our minds will often aim to protect us from discomfort through subtle avoidance of our emotions, like filling our days with things to do.”

And it’s this avoidance of discomfort by engaging in ‘busyness’ all the time that begs the question: isn’t it braver to stop and take stock, than just to keep powering through and squashing the uncomfortable emotions down? For me, it’s a clear yes. I know that in has been in the moments I’ve stopped that I’ve felt the most, that I’ve had to confront the most and ultimately, been able to release and process the most, so that my nervous system – and my mind – can fully calm down. 

But this isn’t the only reason it takes courage to rest, as Emily points out, it takes courage to rest because we also live in a world that teaches us that worthiness comes from busyness, because it takes courage to go against the status quo.

“Nothing is ever surface level, so particularly when we’re looking at challenging societal systems that keep the economy running and functioning (productivity and getting stuff done), it can feel uncomfortable to both our subconscious mind and nervous system to go against the grain and choose to rest,” she explains. 

“So choosing to rest takes courage. Taking action to prioritise resting is not just about cancelling those unnecessary meetings or spending time chilling out over running the errands. Choosing to rest involves us having to challenge our own internalised belief systems surrounding the need to be busy. It takes consciously choosing to reframe the way we see resting, and ultimately creating the safety in our minds and bodies to see rest as just as productive as being busy… and sometimes that takes more effort and energy than just going through the motions, on autopilot.”

In short, it takes courage to stop living life like you’re running out of time, and choose to remain present in a world that is obsessed with busyness. Rest is the ultimate rebellion – which is perhaps the best and most valuable thing someone will tell you today. 

What next?

So we now know that rest takes courage and constant busyness is not necessarily something we should be striving for, but the question is how do we reframe this long-standing belief in order to feel empowered through our downtime, rather than guilty?

“Choosing to rest gets to be empowering,” Emily says. “And, from an NLP perspective, we can start to see rest from a more empowering angle by checking in on what the words ‘downtime’ and ‘rest’ truly mean to us.”

“It’s important to become aware of the stories we are holding onto that relate to these words and behaviours and ultimately, how those stories and definitions do and don’t serve us. We can start to challenge these stories by asking ourselves what rest and downtime can give us. Rather than focusing so much on what it’s taking away. Perhaps it’s mental space? Time and space to process emotions? Time to catch up with ourselves and how we’re doing?”

Though most importantly for the empowerment coach, she wants to make it clear that rest and downtime create an opportunity for you to reset your nervous system so that you can give ourselves space for life to happen and create an opportunity to just be, “rather than having to do all the time”. Which, honestly, just reading makes me feel instantly want to drop my shoulders and take a deep breath. Imagine, just imagine, not having to ‘do’ all the time? Sounds pretty damn good right. 

So, I’ll be kicking off my own rebellion by spending my evening watching Netflix rather than working overtime, joining a Netball team or starting a new side hustle. Join me. 

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