I envy people who relax often and easily.  For me and other ambitious perfectionists, it’s surprisingly hard to rest.

I’m “working on it”–which, ironically, isn’t my preferred approach. Working on resting seems like an oxymoron! Yet, it captures where I’m at and who I am.

Elsewhere, I’ve written about the benefits of rest for productivity. I’m aware of these; this is a classic case of more information doesn’t lead to behaviour change. Actually, I DO need to give myself some credit: I have made progress in this area–however, it’s not consistent, it’s slow, and I have room for improvement 😅  !

Why is resting so hard?!

If you prefer to read my response, then scroll below the video image.

1. Our self-worth is tied up in our accomplishments.

The equation that predominates in our minds is “I do more, I am more”–therefore, the more I accomplish, the more I become. Accomplishments–in this case–are typically wrapped up in notions of prestige and success: career advancement, more education and training, a higher salary. Being present with your family, going for a leisurely walk, doodling (etc) aren’t normally categorized as accomplishments for people who struggle to rest.

2. We worry that others will think we’re irresponsible.

Sometimes making time to slow down is difficult because we’re overcommitted. We don’t want to let others down or gain a reputation for being irresponsible, so we push ourselves to work more in order to fulfill our obligations.

3. It can be unsettling to be with ourselves.

If you’re accustomed to working a lot, you may not know what to do with your time when work isn’t the focus. Being with yourself can result in:

  • Being with your feelings: This isn’t necessarily a comfortable place to hang out.
  • Questioning your life and purpose: Yes, that sounds big–and it is. When we take a step back from a work-only approach, it can prompt us to reflect on questions about where we want to put our focus and attention, what matters, what doesn’t matter…and whether our current practices reflect what’s meaningful to us.
  • Exploring other activities that bring you joy and satisfaction. You may not even know what these are anymore. Or you may know where you want to explore but still struggle with making a change.

4. We think we need to earn rest.

In North American culture, there is a dominant discourse that teaches us we need to “earn our rest”. We may know that isn’t true, but still succumb to that belief. If you need to be convinced about some of the benefits of rest, see this blog post I wrote titled “To be productive at work, you need to rest

Try this when you’re tempted to forego rest

When you’re struggling to de-prioritize work and focus on rest, remind yourself:

  • Rest not something I have to work for
  • Rest in not a destination
  • I value my rest and I value my productivity. Both are important to me.
  • I can start with a breath. It doesn’t need to be more.

If doing non-work activities is challenging, you can remind yourself that rest is needed to be creative and productive at work (in essence, you’re comforting yourself that rest is ok by making the link to work!).

PS. If you’ve tried any or all of the above strategies before, but you’re still over-working, contact me–I can help you change that habit so you have space and desire to enjoy your life in other ways.

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