Is this an expression you were brought up on? Do you believe it? In this blog I’ll be unpacking it a bit and helping you to better understand your real rest needs . . . and shed some light on some conditioning that might be getting in the way.
Most of us have probably had times when the truth of this saying has been very evident: perhaps we’ve been slogging away on one task for so long that we’ve become so bored with it and lethargic that we’re really making very little progress any more.
But if we switch to a very different task (for example from compute work to some physical labor in the garden) then suddenly we find a new vigor and ability to really achieve. There is, at times, much truth in this old saying.
But not always. If we need to rest, we need to rest. End of. Our bodies . . . and minds, need significant time to recoup, rest and heal. Yes, for short periods we might be able to over-ride that need, but it will catch up with us eventually.
Have you noticed how some people tend to go down with a bad cold when they’re off work, say for a Bank Holiday? Quite likely they’ve been over-doing it, forcing themselves to keep going. And when they stop: the body (and/or mind) collapses, allowing any virus or bacteria that’s doing the rounds to do their worse.
So is there truth in the saying? Well, sometimes! So often when we look more deeply at an old-wives sayings, pieces of conventional wisdom or other advice we’ll find the same reality: they have some validity but it is probably not wise to apply them without due awareness of other relevant factors. In the case of whether or not we need a rest, perhaps the key question is this:
Much of our modern society is so goal oriented that we feel we have to keep on at a given task until it’s accomplished. There is often a conditioning to “work hard” without any consideration for the real needs of minds and bodies.
As we become more aware however, for example when taking up some form of mindfulness, or during a detox process, so it becomes clear that forcing ourselves ever onward can become self-defeating. How often do we make silly mistakes when over-tired? How often might we say things we then regret through being over-worked?
And it can often get even worse: consider taking a break and the guilt starts. “I should be working” and so on, nagging in our heads and making any rest we do manage far from effective. No wonder humans, generally, suffer so many stress-related conditions!
Maybe we can learn from the animal kingdom. Our feline friends are renowned, for example, for their ability to cat-nap anywhere, anytime. They know how to yawn, stretch and totally relax. And we can do the same!
Even, or especially, when sat at our internet widow on the world. Surely we can forgive ourselves a few minutes in which to shut our eyes? To allow a fully-fledged yawn to release itself and to stretch our arms as far as they will go?
And cats can teach us much more besides: like not getting stressed or over-tired in the first place! If you want a role-model for being mindful, for being totally present, look no further than your average moggy.
They know how to be chilled . . . yet alert. How often has your pet cat been purring contentedly and peaceful one minute only to be fully awake the next moment to chase anything interesting.
Why not follow the puss’s examples: to change activities frequently AND take regular rests, even if only cat-naps.