I’ve been chronically tired for most of my life.
Since the age of eight or nine, I have rarely experienced a full night of sleep.
In addition to very little sleep, I love to work, so I’ve channeled a lot of energy into working ever since I was 14 years old.
It was tantalizing to throw myself into work, because of cash, yes, but also because people praised my work ethic—and that praise was like a drug. I rarely took time away for rest or play that was intentional and restorative.
My story of exhaustion isn’t unusual. In our culture, it’s the norm.
Being busy is seductive.
Even as a human who was steeped in the practices of yoga and meditation, I was a classic example of tired and wired. I often felt like I was running on a gerbil wheel that I couldn’t manage to escape.
Our cultural addiction to being busy is the antithesis of mindful living.
Being well-rested is frowned upon in our society. A rested human being is not to be taken seriously. There is a particular badge of pride that is worn in our culture when we are overburdened, overworked, and way too busy.
Rest is being the old person who naps life away. Rest is being unproductive. Rest is definitely not associated with being a mover and a shaker.
But, I would actually propose that it’s impossible to create the world we wish to live in if we are in a state of perpetual exhaustion, stress, and anxiety.
To have a real conversation about rest, we have to make sure our terms are clear.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “rest” as not only sleep or repose, but also as “peace of mind or spirit,” “free of anxieties,” and “freedom from…labor.”
We need these qualities of being more than ever.
A well-rested person is a person at peace, a person with minimal anxiety, a person with perspective who can make better decisions. Based on my observation, and the level of suffering in the world today, we are desperate for well-rested hearts and minds.
What we know about neurobiology is that a tired body can’t access the prefrontal cortex as readily. The prefrontal cortex is the part of our brain with the capacity to envision, to make excellent decisions, and to discern right action that aligns with our highest good.
Rest helps us keep this part of our brain online and active in our day-to-day lives. Rest is always important, but now, when there is so much work to be done to usher in a new world, it is critical.
To stay caught in the cycle of tired and wired in today’s world is choosing to support the status quo.
When we choose to prioritize rest, it requires defining success on our own terms.
We need to begin by asking ourselves these questions:
Who do we want to be?
How do we want to move through life?
What kind of rest is necessary to effect change and still enjoy our lives?
I, for one, want to move with deliberate presence through my days. This means that I prioritize rest every day.
I sleep eight hours per night. I exercise most days, and I focus on quality food that makes my body feel clear and alive. I often take a quick nap in the afternoon. I don’t drink alcohol or use other substances as substitutes for real rest. I spend time outdoors. I journal daily to gather my thoughts. I minimize mindless social media engagement and I take time to do things that light me up; I dance, sing, watch movies, and connect with friends. I take time away with my family to recharge and reconnect.
Not only do these pathways of rest bring me joy, but I am also more efficient when I am rested. I get more of the right things done, and I’m better in every way. I am more discerning. I am more empathetic, more loving, and more connected to my own wisdom.
We all have a choice to make about how we want to live our lives.
Choosing to prioritize rest is choosing the highest good. It is choosing to define success on our own terms. It means setting the bar for ourselves, instead of letting it be defined by a soulless culture that thrives on our mindless compliance.
Ultimately, I see the choice to elevate our human need for rest as an opportunity to make a powerful and conscious choice about how we show up.
Do we show up tired with very little resilience, or do we show up clear-minded and ready to lead as we make our way through the chaos?