It should not be this hard to relax.
I am tired. Some mornings it takes me several minutes after waking to motivate myself to get out of bed. I’m not depressed. I’m not lazy. I don’t dread my days. I am just tired. Even when I get a good, full night’s sleep and have a restful day, am exercising enough and all the science lines up for me to be energized, not exhausted … here I am. Exhausted.
And it is because my mind won’t shut the heck down.
I know you know what I’m talking about. There is always something to do, something to think about, a project to work on, someone to call back, someone to write back, someone to text back. An errand to run, something to pick up at the grocery store. Someone’s Facebook or Twitter to check, a blog to read, a blog to write. Shows to catch up on, a movie to watch before you have to take it back to Redbox or send it back to Netflix, a coupon to use before it expires, tasks to check off that ever-present to-do list.
That is why I am tired. It’s why you’re tired, too. That’s why I can’t sit for 23 measly minutes to watch Sheldon Cooper terrorize his friends without checking my phone or going online in some capacity. It’s why I have a hard time sitting for an entire movie – unless I’m in a movie theater – because I can’t sit for 23 minutes, let alone 90.
It should not be this hard to relax.
But we have so much going on that we can’t settle down our minds. We want our minds to just ssshhh, but we can’t get them to do that. We want to quiet our souls, too, but we can’t because we are so externally focused. Not even just doing things for other people, but for ourselves. We’ve gotten ourselves so used to always doing something that we can’t do nothing. We have this notion that doing nothing is unproductive and a waste of time, when in reality, our brain needs the down time. Things are going on behind the scenes when we rest, especially when we sleep, that become an investment for tomorrow. When we rest, our brains – and our souls – are rejuvenating, recuperating, and getting ready for the next day of over-stimulation.
Our first response is, “I don’t have time to rest.” I’m going to call that what it is: unhealthy. Your time will expand and contract depending on what you make time for. If you want 20 minutes of rest, you will find/make 20 minutes for rest. I don’t mean set your alarm clock for an earlier time so you hit the snooze button and can get more rest; that doesn’t count. I mean exchanging your time during your normal waking hours.
One of the biggest factors for our time getting eaten up by an invisible monster is that device on which you’re likely reading this blog post. Recent stats say that most Americans do not go one waking hour without checking their cell phone. And, as I mentioned in Friday’s Three Good Things, Nomophobia is a thing: actual psychological distress caused by being away from your mobile device (no mobile phone phobia).
We need to get away from this culture of dependence on being connected. I don’t mean get rid of it, just cultivate the ability to disconnect. It’s a Biblical principle and it’s a great way to decide how to spend your time: just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. If you have kids or are a teacher, you likely say this kind of thing all the time. Just because the marble fits up your nose, doesn’t mean you have to put it there. Just because we can stay connected 24/7 doesn’t mean we should. I think we are setting ourselves and our children up for an inability to rest, which will create a foundation of restlessness, which creates a whole host of problems, psychologically and otherwise. An inability to rest has further repercussions than just a restlessness in the here-and-now.
So, where’s a good place to start? How can we practice this rest that we so desperately need and – if we’re honest with ourselves – we so desperately want? A few things that have helped me…
1. Put your phone on airplane mode. Start small: 5 minutes. Your phone timer works in airplane mode, so you even can set the timer. At first it’s going to feel like an hour. When I tried donothingfor2minutes.com, courtesy of Stories Are the Wildest Things, I was ready to move on at 30 seconds. I stuck it out, though I accidentally restarted it at 1:45 and wasn’t too motivated to do it again. But try it. Note your feelings before and after (sorry, that’s the counselor in me!).
2. Go for a walk and don’t take your phone. The horror, I know. But I have faith in you. Enjoy the fresh air, the sunshine, your neighbor, whatever.
3. Watch one TV show without checking your phone during it. This is going to be tough. You’re going to want to know what else an actress is in, or when another one of your shows is coming back on (c’mon, Hart of Dixie!), or you’re going to get a text that you havetohavetohaveto answer right now.
4. For a short while, put your phone on silent mode and put it somewhere where it’s a pain to get it back. For example, under the couch. I did this for an hour a few months ago. (See, I already know I’m addicted – I’m trying to help you out of denial!) It worked, though. I put it there, watched a TV show, read for a little bit, and then dug around for a minute until I got it back. I had a few messages, but my world did not collapse from not answering right away.
Rest. Disconnect. See how good it does your soul. And leave it in the comments to tell us how it goes!