“What is your relationship with rest?” A friend recently asked me that question, and it rocked me back on my heels. It made me stop and really think beyond a fast answer.

So powerful for so many reasons! First, asking someone what their “relationship” with rest opens it up for conversation instead of: “When do you ever rest?” which is fairly rhetorical and shuts the conversation down. Second, it’s a powerful question because so many people have different views of what rest is, whether we deserve it, and what it looks like. It’s a cultural question, a generational question, an achievement question, a self-care question.

In asking my friends the same question, I found a wide variety of answers. One friend was raised that rest had to be “earned.” It was never quite clear how she “earned” rest – she only knew that she had to be bone-weary to feel ok about having a vacation or mental health day. And, of course, by the time she felt she had earned the rest, she was usually well past the point where her body and mind needed it!

Another friend, new to the United States, was constantly surprised at how Americans viewed rest. She was raised in a culture that values rest vs. finding it to be a sign of weakness.

In kindergarten, we got nap time (how many of you miss that??). But before a new college graduate can even flip their tassel, we tell them to hit the ground running and conquer their dreams. Seems counterintuitive, doesn’t it? In kindergarten, we spend the day learning, playing and crafting, and you still get a nap. But the older we get, the more hectic life becomes, and shouldn’t WE get a nap?

So how can we return to that mindset of resting – our minds and bodies?

Napping for the sake of science

There’s actual science behind giving our bodies rest. In fact, we are learning so much about the importance of rest and sleep that professional sports teams hire sleep specialists to help athletes optimize their rest and thereby optimize their performance.

In a world that’s Go, GO, GOOOO, resting feels “weak,” self-indulgent, or you’re missing out on something. One thing I tell my overworked clients is to find the type of rest that works for you. Vegging out for a day or TV and ice cream isn’t for everyone. Neither is reading next to a pool, playing golf or knitting by a fire.

First, make a list of activities that relax you. That’s right: activities. See? This rest thing isn’t so hard already. For a friend of mine, working in her garden brings her peace of mind. That wouldn’t work for me. I kill every plant I touch! I like walking on the beach with my dog. Everyone has different ideas of what brings them peace, relaxation and rest.

Second, reset your mind. For some, scrolling through TikTok videos is a form of rest because it allows your mind to wander. For others, rest is listening to music to clear their mind. Resetting your mind means doing something unrelated to your day-to-day activities – forcing your brain to use a different lobe and think differently.

Third, time your rest. You heard me. Time it! If you struggle with the idea of rest, then giving yourself structure – knowing there’s a beginning and an end – gives you space to let go fully. It may be a 2-hour window or a 2-day getaway. Maybe it’s both! The point is to give yourself space to recover your brain and body so you can be the best you can be.

Permission to Rest

I often get asked to speak at events on a topic I call “Permission Mission.” Normally, I talk about why people – especially women – feel they need “permission” to step into the spotlight in their own lives. We act as if the workplace is a game of Mother May I. But I would also say men and women both need to give themselves permission to rest.

Many voices shape who we are and who we become. But YOU are the author of your story, no one else. But for some reason, we continue to seek guidance, approval and permission from others.  Permission becomes so engrained in us that we continue to seek it – even when you are your own best advocate! Those voices all served an incredible purpose, and, at one time or another, they were guiding us in the right way.

The toughest obstacle to giving yourself rest is still in your head. Our culture values burnout and being busy vs. actually being productive. It’s time to break that cycle and celebrate rest! So, clear away the clutter, the voices, the competitions, the judgments, and tell me: What’s your relationship with rest?