Last week I talked about the I am Weak If I Own My Anxiety Myth, and one of my suggestions to managing anxiety was the reminder that rest is necessary. I got an email from a reader saying,—ok, but how do I do that? I really struggle with rest. And I thought, Yes! I LOVE it when someone pushes back and asks questions.
So today, we are talking about how to rest. My favorite definition of rest is from the Oxford dictionary: to cease work or movement in order to relax, refresh oneself, or recover strength.
That could be napping, watching TV, reading a book, lounging by the pool. It doesn’t mean getting outside and pulling weeds, or going for a hike, or watching a movie while working on your computer. It means ceasing work or movement to refresh oneself.
Yesterday afternoon was a time of rest for me. I saw clients in the morning, but by afternoon, my husband was headed out with friends, and I had planned to rest. Fortunately, with my husband being gone, one of my barriers to rest was lifted. My Monger goes crazy if my husband or anyone else is working while I am trying to rest because if they are working, I should too.
My second barrier to rest is because it is so hard to convince myself to rest; I will only rest if I have hours and hours to take advantage of it. This is why I love vacation—forced rest. This is common with HFA. We have two modes, ON and OFF. On when our Monger is yelling at us and OFF when our BFF steps in and tells us to pack it in. But this rest I am talking about is listening to our bodies and giving ourselves true nurturing rest when we need it.
As I made my lunch, I debated how I wanted to rest. Sit outside—no, it is too hot. Read a book—no, I can’t concentrate. Watch a movie—ugh, I watch TV all the time. Take a nap—nope, naps are too hard for me.
I realized I had hit my third barrier to rest—If I am going to spend the day resting, I need to do it right. Perfection in resting. One of the Monger’s favorite refrains: if you aren’t going to do it perfectly—what’s the point?
And that is when I realized I was wearing the Monger straight jacket. The Monger straight jacket is when she is running the show, and I am fully wrapped up in her message that I suck, I know nothing, and she will keep me in analysis paralysis—the opposite of rest.
Rest is hard because it is counter to every one of the High Functioning Anxiety coping skills. Accomplishment, hustling, checking things off the list, perfectionism, procrastination, etc. And when we stop engaging in coping skills, in rushes the anxiety to fill the space. Rest can be uncomfortable—at least initially.
So back to the question—I have shared the reasons rest is hard for people with High Functioning Anxiety, but the question was HOW DO I DO IT?
Here are my tips:
Rest as a practice: rest isn’t a should. It is something our bodies need to function. I am shifting my rigid attitude about what rest is and moving it from something I have to do when I am exhausted to a practice that I can give to myself because I am a better human when I rest. I am more kind, gentle, empathetic, and yes, more productive when I rest. Noticing my attitudes around rest has helped loosen them up a bit.
Rest is a non-negotiable and time limit. It is easy to talk myself out of rest, so scheduling it is important. Letting your loved ones know in advance that you are off-limits during this time or making it a family event that everyone rests at a certain time. Start small, maybe 10 minutes or 20 minutes. It doesn’t have to be ALL DAY.
Notice the Monger and bring in the Biggest Fan (Self-Loyalty). Rest appears just to be a physical process, but with HFA, it becomes a mental and emotional one too. When we have spent our whole lives believing we are machines and everyone else knows better, changing that programming is hard.
Yesterday, I had to do this at least a dozen times. All the anxiety we can ignore when busy comes flooding in, and it can be overwhelming. The key is catching it and shifting it. I will say to my Monger, “Yes, I get it you believe a better person would be productive. But that is an old toxic message. I believe having my own back and paying attention to my body is more important. I am not a machine, and rest makes me a better human.” Practicing ASK is super helpful in getting in touch with your Biggest Fan.
Curiosity. Most importantly, I want you to get curious. I shared my blocks to rest and the common ones I hear from clients, but what are YOUR blocks to rest? When you can start mining those beliefs and attitudes, you can start building ways to work around them.
Some days will be easier than others. I have had days where rest comes easy, where I can tune out the Monger, quiet my anxiety and enjoy an afternoon of rest. And then there are days like yesterday where it was painful to slow down. There is no perfect way to rest, which is the hardest thing to unhook of them all.