Gah! That’s me taking a deep breath.
I have been so stressed lately. I am not new to stress – in fact, I have prided myself on my ability to just muscle through it. But when muscling through stress becomes the norm rather than something you do once in a blue moon, then something’s gotta give. In my case, it was my body. After weeks of pushing my boundaries, my body decided to send me a message. It came in the form of fatigue and lethargy that literally made it very hard for me to get out of bed. Plus some other symptoms that made me diagnose myself with an autoimmune condition. Luckily for me, the trip to my doctor’s office and the blood tests proved me wrong. The scare I had was enough to re-evaluate my poor choices and weak inhibitions around rest. After some soul searching, I had to agree with myself that rest was something I never learned to prioritize.
So for a non-spring chicken like me, how do I change my route and redirect my brain pathways into understanding that rest is not for weaklings. Basically, how do I go about changing my attitude about rest? Dredge those frozen pathways and make them come alive to the idea of prioritizing rest?
Growing up, rest was not something you took; it had to be given. Usually, when you were done with all your chores and tasks. And the more you did, the more you were expected to do. This in addition to my can-do attitude made for a recipe for disaster. Since the beginning of the month, I began the deconstruction process which entailed prioritizing rest. I wished I could be methodical with the approach I am using by providing you with a five-point list but seeing as it’s still a work-in-progress, you gotta wait out this one. But here’s what I really started doing (yeah, and it’s a five-point list too :-D):
I had to schedule breaks within my working hours. Little burst of 5-min breaks where I did nothing but took deep breaths and meditated. I use the Calm app for these.
Treated every day of the week as a potential rest day. I no longer relegate my rest hours to the weekends. Perhaps, this one thing has helped me appreciate weekdays better and not see them as the days in the way of the weekend.
Doing the best I could do every day. Focusing first on the urgent and important things and leaving the rest till the next day. After all, the world won’t fall apart if I left an email unread in my inbox till the next day.
Rewarding myself with positive affirmations during the process of work as well and not only upon the completed of the work. Doing one without the other, as we are in the habit of doing, especially with the latter, creates an impression that the product is more important than the process.
Being gentle with myself. Knowing that my energy levels wane throughout the day and week and not comparing myself all the time with who I was the day before.
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It’s too soon to tell the long-term impact of these changes I am making but the short-term benefits have been quite meritorious to my health, especially mental health and sleep. Confronting my mortality and limitation in such a manner has made me see the need to put the brakes on overexerting myself. In talking to one of my very dear friends, Emmanuel, about this, he shared something really profound around Genesis 2 (see the verse below) that I will share here (with his permission, of course, :-D):
“And on the seventh day, God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation”- Genesis 2:2-3
Rest is a source of blessing! It's a secret source of blessing because those who observe rest in its true intent enjoy divine blessings. Thus God "built" the seven-day week into the order of the universe. Rest is part of nature and should be viewed with high regards. One is fruitless when he/she doesn't rest...lacking in blessings - Emmanuel
I’ll end here by saying, stay blessed.
PS: I had a monologue on my last podcast episode talking about more on this issue of rest as well as what I have been up to this summer – travels spanning 11 cities and states and one foreign country, the 5-week cancer fellowship I did at the NIH (National Institute of Health). I also talked about the implications of my beloved therapist quitting her practice, and how my imminent birthday is giving me major depression vibes, plus my latest education scholarship project - The 33 Project.
The goal of The 33 Project is to identify and shortlist 33 indigent children who will benefit from the scholarship for a given period of time. I am hoping to raise $3,300. Look out for more information on that, especially how you can be a part of that (yeah, I need your money :-D). More details here.