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How to Rest When You're Wired to Work, Work, Work!

July 16, 2021

Running bath with a cup of tea

You’ve got 10 minutes to spare before your next meeting / appointment. You’re already pretty tired. What do you do? 

A) Try and squeeze in some work or chores. 


B) Put your feet up, close your eyes and breathe for a few minutes.

If you almost always choose A, I get it. 

With a 7 month old in tow, I feel as though I have regressed slightly in the self-care department. When he’s napping, I try to fit in as much as I can (chores, work, etc) even though a nap is often what I actually need. 

Too often, we stretch ourselves beyond our limits and ignore our internal needs in favour of getting more done in a day. 

There’s nothing wrong with striving to be productive. The problem arises when we prioritise productivity over our physical and mental well-being. 

The reality is, if we don’t make time to rest, if we refuse to honour our limits and continue to treat our bodies like machines, then we are basically welcoming burnout, exhaustion, and sickness with open arms. 

So, how do we practise the art of resting? How do we press pause? How do we shift our mindset away from one that is wired to work ALL. THE. TIME. 


Make it enjoyable

Figure out what your version of self-care looks like. Yoga and meditation sounds good in theory, but if it feels like a chore to you, opt for something else that feels a little more like rest. 

Maybe it’s watching the clouds. Maybe it’s lying down with your legs up on the wall. Maybe it’s doing a few stretches. Maybe it’s going for a walk. Maybe it’s taking a bath.

For me, it’s lying down on the floor with a lavender filled eye pillow resting on my eyelids. It’s simple, but feels incredibly grounding. For a few minutes (or as long as I choose to lay on the floor), I can zone out and rest. 

The key thing to remember is this: if it’s enjoyable or satisfying on some level, you’re more likely to repeat the activity.


Reframe your self-talk

Reframing your inner dialogue is not about ignoring or suppressing your thoughts. It’s about challenging that critical voice. It’s about acknowledging the words of your inner critic but consciously choosing to believe a more supportive and helpful narrative led by your inner coach. 

Remember, that critical voice is just one point of view. It doesn’t make it factual. 

For every limiting thought, think about what you would say to a loved one. Consider your tone of voice. Show yourself the same kindness, compassion and support.

Here are some of the recurring thoughts that interfere with my self-care intentions:

I haven’t done enough today so I can’t rest yet.

If I don’t do [insert chore / task], nobody will.

My partner is already doing too much. 

It needs to be done now. 

Here’s the reframe:

I am doing enough. I am worthy of rest. 

I am allowed to delegate tasks. My partner, family and friends want to help and support me. 

My partner has told me many times that he wants to help wherever possible.  

It can wait. 


Fact-check your thoughts 

It needs to be done now. 

Ask yourself:
Is it urgent?
Does it absolutely need to be done right now? 

Often, the answer is no. 

If the answer is no, then, it can wait. 

It can wait. This is what I tell myself when I’m breastfeeding and I want to do some work on my phone. It can wait. It’s not urgent. 

Often, what you’ve classified as urgent can wait (at the very least) a few minutes for you to rest, catch your breath and compose yourself. 

I’m not saying ditch your to-do list and sit on the couch all day. We all have responsibilities. I get it.

We just need to give ourselves some breathing room between our commitments. We need to give ourselves permission to press pause, instead of trying to cram as much as we can into every minute of every day. It’s just not sustainable. 


Schedule it in

We’ve all used the “I don’t have time” excuse before.

It certainly feels that way when we’ve overcommitted and over scheduled ourselves. 

The truth is, you do have time. You’re just choosing to spend it on other areas of your life. 

The question is, what are you spending it on?
Are you saying yes to everything and everyone, except yourself?
Something has to give. And it shouldn’t be your well-being. 

If 10 minutes a day is all you can manage to begin with, work with that. If you can carve out a larger chunk on certain days, do that. 

Scheduling self-care activities, whether that’s an evening walk at 6pm or a morning stretch at 7am, will bring you one step closer to pressing pause more frequently. 

You’re more likely to commit to activities you’ve proactively scheduled because there is zero decision fatigue involved. The time, activity and location has already been worked out. 


Get an accountability partner 

Sometimes, we need a gentle nudge from someone else to help us on our self-care journey. 

That person might be your partner, best friend, brother, sister, mum, dad… whoever it is, it needs to be someone you trust. They need to wholeheartedly support your intentions and be able to give you a gentle push when old habits get the better of you. 

The benefit of having an accountability partner is that your intentions are no longer private.

Somebody else knows and that somebody is going to check in and ask you whether you’ve done what you said you were going to do.

Your social reputation and perceived reliability is at stake. Therefore, you’re more likely to uphold your intentions. 


Edit your environment

Create an environment that encourages rest. 

Let the objects around your home serve as reminders to take time out for you. Think candles, incense, yoga mat, journal, essential oils, etc. 

Display visual reminders of your values and intentions everywhere (think desk, bedroom wall, bathroom mirror) so that you can continue to prioritise what’s important to you and live by your values.

These visual reminders might be in the form of quotes, phrases, post-it notes, magazine cut-outs and/or wall art.

For example, I’ve got the phrase "Gently does it" on my bedroom wall. It’s my morning reminder to approach the day with a slow and steady mindset.

I also have this quote by Brené Brown strategically placed in my home: 

“It takes courage to rest and play in a culture where exhaustion is seen as a status symbol.”

Set recurring reminders

Setting the intention to practise self-care is a good start. However, remembering to do it can be tricky, especially if this whole self-care thing is a new habit you’re trying to build. 

Set recurring reminders on your phone to help you stick to your intentions. 

I have one that pops up on my screen every morning at 10am reminding me to:

“Take a deep conscious breath. Relax your shoulders. Release all tension.”

It’s a simple yet effective way to build some pauses into your day.