Written by Justin Langley. Media by James Hudson.
Resting well is hard work. One of the most frequent comment I hear from people is “I’m tired”. Usually, I don’t need to hear it to see it – people are weary. It’s easy to grow discouraged and lose motivation when you hardly seem to have the energy to do anything, even the things you love. Most of us don’t have time for a nap every day, so we have to get creative in the ways we find rest.
First of all, be active. In order to rest well, you have to “unrest” well. Sedentary lifestyles and half-hearted efforts form terrible work habits, and it becomes difficult for our body and mind to distinguish when we are sincerely trying to work and when we are resting. Soon we find we can neither rest well nor work well.
More generally, dissociate your resting environment with your work environment. How productive can you expect to be if you’re lounging on your bed in your pajamas trying to write a paper on quantum mechanics? Electronics, especially before bed, are a huge distraction from sleep and a relaxed brain. It’s an amazing feeling to know when you lie down in your bed, it’s only because you get to sleep.
Sort out your priorities. Be willing to take an objective look at what you value – what you spend your time, resources, and energy doing and thinking about. Perhaps you decide that as much as you like video games, for instance, you value being rested and working efficiently more. If you forfeit sleep for more trivial things, that’s your choice to make, but do you not also forfeit your right to complain about being ill-rested? Not only so, you forfeit numerous opportunities to grow more productive.
Eat healthy. Or at least be willing to experiment to see if it makes a difference!
Don’t neglect your talents and interests. We humans find satisfaction in doing what we’re good at and in feeding our curiosity. My job and my studies in math and music generally take priority to my musings about astronomy, my athletic interests, or my desire to go sailing. But at some point, I cannot healthily deny myself things that I find engaging and reviving. And, of course, multi-tasking is a valuable skill, which may just allow you to finish your homework on a sailboat.
Vary your intake and your environment. Much like farmland, our brains are not designed to intake and bring to fruition the same crops for too long. It may seem strange to rest from learning by learning about something else, but if you find yourself floundering in endless work, you probably don’t have the luxury of a “true” break. This leads to:
Don’t mistake disengaging for resting. A “true” break does not mean shutting off your brain. We can’t shut off our brains. Unfortunately, they will not merely deflect useless information or stimulation; they absorb it, and begin to break it down. In the very act of trying to rest our brains, we train them in the wretched habit of resisting stimulation and we cripple our ability to think critically and connect ideas.
(Healthy alternative to endless YouTube videos) Read. Take ten minutes to read a book or an article. I have found more success in aiming to read ten pages instead of setting a time frame for myself. I typically have a dozen articles pulled up on my phone for when I need a bathroom break or am waiting in the McDonald’s drive-thru. When we allow ourselves to dwell on things we care about, we train our brains to interact well with information. And as I suggested in the beginning, working better means resting better.
Needless to say, all these practicalities are useless without consistent reliance on our Creator and Sustainer. C.S Lewis says in Mere Christianity “God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.” As much as we may strive to work well, rest well, and enjoy the fruits of our labors, we ought to seek God’s glory above and through all else. So seek first His kingdom, and all these things will be added unto you.