The Nature of Rest
In Chinese Five Element Theory, winter describes a period of hibernation, introspection, and deep restoration. Nature reminds us that we require deep nourishment at this time of year. We can all benefit from taking time out to rest and refocus, and the winter season naturally supports this important process.
Winter is a time to dream and connect with what’s important to you. From a place of rest, you can align yourself with your goals and plans in preparation for spring, when the energy is there to bring them to fruition.
Living in a fast-paced world, isolated from nature, it’s easy to miss these natural influences. Once upon a time, nature was home. Our lives were inseparable from it, and it profoundly shaped our existence, providing everything that sustained us. But not anymore.
Now we’re able to avoid nature if we choose to, fooling and confusing our bodies with all sorts of artificial stimuli. Everything is available online – foods from all over the world can be delivered direct to your door. The ease and comfort are convenient, but our deeper connection with the environment has been lost along the way.
The Culture of Busy
Prioritising rest is at odds with our cultural norms. Western society values instant gratification and productivity. We’re programmed to take pride in doing, working, chasing goals, striving to achieve, and getting by on very little sleep.
This way of being doesn’t encourage us to thrive, only survive. It doesn’t support, protect, or nourish our bodies, and unfortunately self-care has become an afterthought. Is it any wonder many of us feel constantly distracted, pathologically busy, and incredibly stressed?
Keeping busy can become a protective mechanism that feels easier than pausing to connect with our personal needs. Most of us have never had healthy self-care practices modelled for us, and we may have inherited beliefs that confuse self-care with selfishness, laziness, or indulgence. As a result, we feel guilty for taking time out.
In a society that glorifies being busy, rest can feel like an elusive luxury. But there’s a limit to how much we can cram into our lives. Rates of stress, anxiety, and burnout are rising. We’ve never been more in need of intentional self-care.
The Power of Intentional Rest
I love to work! Ask any of my friends and they’ll describe me as constantly busy. It’s what I know best. My family are Welsh hill farmers, so working hard is naturally part of my character. There’s nothing wrong with working hard, but not if it leads to stress and burnout.
Personally, being busy doesn’t feel good if it compromises my ability to meet my essential self-care needs – adequate sleep, nourishing food, movement, being in nature, meditating, and connecting with others.
While our basic self-care essentials will differ, they’re vital for all of us, creating a healthy, stable foundation for everything else in our lives. Deciding to tend to your own needs means you’ll be ready to face the world refreshed and filled with energy and ideas. You’ll also enjoy a greater capacity for work and the care of others.
Rest Over Recovery
‘Rest that happens after burnout is not rest, it’s recovery. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to recover from my life.’ – Mel Wiggins, Operating from a Place of Rest
Resting only once you’ve become overworked and burnt out is neither enjoyable or sustainable. Even when you enjoy your work, pursuing your passion shouldn’t come at the expense of your overall health and wellbeing. It’s important to recognise when you’re tired and allow yourself time to recharge.
It’s a healthy practice to regularly ask yourself, ‘what do I need?’ before checking in with your basic self-care essentials. If your body is telling you to slow down and rest, don’t feel guilty about listening.
From a place of rest and reflection come inspiration, creativity, insight, and perspective. It gives us time to exist without the pressure of doing, people pleasing, performing, competing and comparing. Self-doubt, anxiety, and procrastination all tend to sneak in when we’re tired.
Prioritising Rest & Aligning with the Seasons
Prioritising rest doesn’t necessarily mean taking extra holidays or booking a spa day. These luxuries aren’t an option for many of us, so approaching rest in a more holistic and sustainable way will allow us to embrace it as part of our everyday lives rather than trying to find relief in escapism.
When we connect with the cyclical pattern of the seasons, and the ebb and flow of the natural world, nature supports and provides for us. Our bodies are not separate from the natural environment. There are times for being slow and times for being busy.
This cyclical way of being is inherently feminine. It’s not compatible with living in a male-dominated society that expects us to carry on at the same speed, all day, every day! As a result, we miss out on key times to rest because society doesn’t acknowledge, respect, or understand how beneficial these times are.
During the menstrual cycle, the body tells us when to slow down. When we’re menstruating, our hormone levels decline, and energy levels are at their lowest. Just like the winter season, this is a time to focus inward, rest and reflect in preparation for the month ahead.
Whether male or female, our bodies have cycles, and we can all benefit from seasonal living. Each season supports, nourishes and prepares the body for the next season, creating a constant cycle of wellbeing.
How to Prioritise Rest this Winter
Focusing on small, frequent doses of rest will help you form a sustainable habit that benefits your long-term wellbeing. Here are some simple ideas to get you started. For more inspiration, discover 7 Ways to Slow Down in a Busy World.
- During the colder months, slow mornings can help set the tone for calm, productive work days. Try setting your alarm a little earlier. Giving yourself an extra ten minutes to get ready can turn a rushed morning into a restful one.
- Recharge regularly throughout the day. Enjoy a slow cup of tea, away from any screens. Notice the smell and the warmth of the mug in your hands, take a few deep breaths, and let go of any stress.
- Head outside for a quick walk to stretch your legs and top up on fresh air and vitamin D.
- Eat lunch away from your computer.
- Take a power nap or do a short meditation.
- Reduce your screen time. Use your phone less in the morning and before bed and take whole days off from social media whenever you can.