“How are you?”
“I’m exhausted all the time”
“Well, that’s to be expected, you’re a mum!”
Have you ever had a conversation like that?
It seems to be a commonly held belief that once you enter motherhood, you are destined to be exhausted for a looooong time.
At least that’s the story nearly everyone is telling.
I don’t believe it though.
Yes, you will be tired sometimes. You’ll be really, really tired at certain stages. But you are not relegated to continual exhaustion for years on end.
Because you can choose to rest.
That statement might make you feel a little uncomfortable. I get it. There are so many reasons that we feel like we can’t rest. Reasons like this:
“People are relying on me.”
“If I don’t do all these things, who else will?”
“My children are with me all the time.”
“I feel too guilty when I stop.”
“I need to get everything done first.” (and we all know that “everything” is NEVER done)
“I feel like I’m being lazy.”
“I literally have NO time.”
“I have bills to pay.”
“My baby never sleeps!”
But lovely mum, we are all responsible for the way we interpret our circumstances and the choices we make. And we can choose to rest.
Ok, stay with me. Even though it feels uncomfortable and impossible now, I’m hoping you’ll see things differently by the end of this article. There are some important things I want to explain about rest, that will help you understand why I’m saying all this.
I believe that one of the reasons we find it hard to rest, is that we have a very narrow view of what rest is.
Rest is not a luxury
Rest is not something you have to earn, or that is only for the mums who can afford loads of household help to free up their time.
We all need rest.
We are living in a world which expects us to be on the go all the time. To keep adding more responsibilities and activities to our schedules. To keep up with an immense amount of information streaming into our lives around the clock.
This makes it even more important for us to choose to rest. Because if we don’t, we’ll just keep getting swept along to the next thing and the next, relentlessly.
Rest is about recharging so that you can continue to deal with all the responsibilities, relationships and your own wellbeing. Rest can actually make you more productive, happy, focused, energetic and healthy. It can help you be more present, patient and calm in your parenting, clearer in your communication and better able to deal with stressful situations that arise.
Without rest, we put our wellbeing at risk and could potentially reach burn out. There are countless stories of mums who have pushed themselves to their limits for long periods, and ended up sick and unable to do anything.
Rest is not a luxury. It’s a necessity.
It’s part of our natural rhythm. We weren’t designed for constant stress, doing, and being exhausted all the time.
Rest is not just sleeping
What activities come to mind when you think about rest?
Many people equate rest with sleep. Other popular rest activities are going on a holiday (even a weekend away) or watching TV.
Sleep is obviously very important but a bad quality sleep is far from restful. If you’d like some tips about how to sleep better, head to my blog on this topic.
However, rest is actually much more than these examples. This is a really good thing because it means that we can find the rest that suits our circumstances and needs best.
If you’ve ever found yourself still exhausted after doing whatever you consider rest to be, perhaps you need a different type of rest. If you’re relying on sleep alone for your rest, it is probably not enough.
One night last week, I was feeling particularly tired. I decided to “rest” by sitting down with my husband in front of the TV and doing some Christmas shopping on my laptop. After an hour or so, I felt so frazzled and irritable. I just wanted to go to sleep because nothing felt good. Later I realised that I needed a mental break and so neither the TV or the Christmas shopping were helping me recharge.
Screen time is not the good quality rest time we think it is. Many of us actually need a break from screens.
If you’ve ever wondered by you don’t feel refreshed after resting, it might help to know that Saundra Dalton-Smith, M.D. author of Sacred Rest identified 7 different types of rest that we need. Each of these 7 types of rest help us to unwind the stress we feel and replenish the energy we expend throughout each day. If you’re not getting the right type of rest to meet your needs and replenish the energy you use, you will still feel empty and drained.
We hold a lot of stress in our bodies but often don’t take the time to pay attention to muscle tension, pain or discomfort before it is quite serious.
Physical rest involves using your body in restorative ways to decrease muscle tension, reduce headaches and promote higher quality sleep. Some examples are:
- Deep breathing
- Intentionally relaxing the tension in your body or face
- Taking a gentle walk
- Self massage on points of tension
If you feel like you can’t structure your thoughts or get your words out right, you might be in need of mental rest. Perhaps you’ve been reading the same thing over and over and it just won’t go in. Or maybe you’re overcome with negative thoughts or find yourself replaying all your mistakes and regrets at the end of the day. Our minds are constantly working and holding onto so much information. Mental rest is about quieting the chatter in your mind and focusing on things that matter. This can include:
- Taking a break from screens
- Deep breathing exercises focusing on your breath
- Going about your daily activities mindfully
- Repeating a calming affirmation
- Doing a brain dump – writing all your thoughts on paper to release it from your mind
- Using a written to do list, rather than a mental one
- Feeding your positive thoughts with inspiring things (music, art, reading something motivating)
If you spend a lot of time with people who drain you and demand a lot from you, you may be in need of social rest. Alternatively, you may feel withdrawn and alone in your struggles. Social rest is about recognising and engaging in relationships which refresh you, as opposed to those that exhaust you. You rest by limiting your time in those exhausting relationships where possible, and spending more time in the refreshing ones. The positive, supportive people who just want to be with you. Some people will also need time alone to recharge.
Do you ever feel like you just need to talk to someone you trust and whom can be yourself with? Or do you feel like you’re “performing” rather than being able to be yourself around others? If either of these are the case, you may benefit from emotional rest.
Emotional rest involves being free to authentically express your feelings and not having to engage in any people pleasing behaviours or modify how you are. It’s about feeling connected and understood and being able to share what’s going on for you with someone who you can be honest with (even for just 10 mins, even via Skype or FaceTime). Perhaps you might find it useful to talk to a counsellor or psychologist. Alternatively, if you don’t have anyone available when you need them, journalling can also be useful.
You may need spiritual rest if you are feeling like there must be something more to life or that what you’re doing isn’t meaningful or worthwhile. Spiritual rest is connecting beyond the mental and physical. To have a deep sense of belonging, love, acceptance and purpose. You can rest by engaging in something greater than yourself in your day to day routine, such as prayer, being part of a community or volunteering. Contribute to something meaningful and with a greater purpose.
Have you noticed that it’s harder to enjoy noisy environments, or you are more sensitive to bright lights or scents? Are sounds making you jump? Our senses are working hard all day and sometimes they need a rest too. Sensory rest is giving yourself an opportunity to lessen the endless sensory input from electronics, fragrances and background noise. You could try:
- Sitting in silence for a few moments
- Closing your eyes for 2 mins
- Dimming the screens on your electronic devices
- Turn off music or other sources of background noise.
You don’t have to consider yourself a “creative person” to engage in creative rest. If you can’t see the beauty in simply things, or are feeling generally uninspired, you may need creative rest. Creative rest involves allowing beauty to inspire and motivate us. Give yourself a break from always planning and problem solving. Instead, read a book, go for a walk, enjoy nature or the arts, listen to beautiful music and be mindful while you are doing it.
Choose to rest
We can be intentional about choosing to rest, and rest in the ways that will really make a difference to how we feel and function.
I know it might seem a little overwhelming to think about incorporating all seven types of rest into your day. You may not need all 7 every day. Practice tuning in to how you are feeling and what you need on a regular basis. This will help you identify the type of rest you need. It also helps to identify how you use your energy through the day. For example, if you are frequently carrying and picking up small children, physical rest in the form of stretching and massage may replenish your physical energy.
Let me finish with an excerpt from Saundra’s book, that really stood out to me:
Rest is not for weaklings. Hollowing out space for rest is work. Finding time for rest is the hands and feet of the promises we long to claim. It means saying no. It means having limits with ourselves. It means having limits with others. It takes courage to rest in the midst of an outcome-driven society. It takes strength to walk away from good in the pursuit of better. The people-pleaser in me would rather say yes and omit the rest. I’ve found through the years that I can’t please anyone including myself when I’m burned out. Funny how everyone can smell the char of your slow burn except the one standing in the fire.
Are you getting the rest you need, lovely?
I hope this has helped you better understand why you might be exhausted all the time. Rest doesn’t mean just stopping or sleeping. It can mean many things, and needs to incorporate a variety of activities to make sure we replenish the energy we expend each day.
Which type of rest do you need most right now? What will you do to provide yourself with that rest?