Rest isn't a luxury if you want to make meaningful progress on things that matter--it's a necessity.
On August 19th, I got a concussion and had to go to the emergency room. Apparently, I had a wakeboarding accident, but I hardly remember any of it. That Saturday night is essentially a blank space in my mind. My mom sent me this picture later.
When I received the photo, it was as if I looked at someone else. I don't remember even a little bit the fact that I apparently kept repeating, "Take a photo for social media." Well, here's the payoff. The person staring back at me and the hospital bed seem foreign. At least I know now I'm a fun-loving guy when my brain stops functioning properly.
Thankfully, the CT scans capturing images of my head and neck showed no internal bleeding. It was a concussion with transient global amnesia. Basically, I hit my head--hard--and lost my short-term memory for a little bit.
It scared me to wake up the next morning to my dad asking me if I recognized him. For anyone with a similar experience in your past, you know how weird this "waking up" experience can be, a process filled with mental fog, trying to piece together your recent past, and a heavy dose of confusion.
For such a major medical event, one might believe there should be some complex rehabilitation regimen or powerful prescription. But, alas, nothing. Well, nothing but rest.
When you get a concussion, you need rest to let your brain heal. It's undergone a serious trauma, essentially sprinting at full speed into a brick wall, and needs to take a breather and a water break. The rest is what brings the brain back and clears away the grogginess.
But I don't rest well. And I imagine you might not rest well, either.
Culture is throwing things at us all the time keeping us from genuine rest. Distraction is my drug of choice, and intentionally resting is a challenging ritual to maintain. Our lives often undergo metaphorical concussions, periods of strenuous impact in need of repair. Our days, weeks, months, and years can become plagued with a cyclical, never-ending hitting of our heads without the necessary recovery needed for rejuvenation and restoration.
In fact, I'm writing this sentence at 10:30PM on the Thursday after my accident. The few days following my concussion, I made snarky remarks about how quickly I'd be back religiously tending to my morning routine. I was on my phone more than I should've been. I, candidly, struggled (and am struggling) with giving my body the rest it needed.
What does it mean to truly value rest? And how do we rest well? Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Remember why rest is important. As with all concepts surrounding values-driven productivity, we have to gain a clear purpose behind rest. It is a time to recover, remember, and prepare. We recover from exerting energy, remember what we're thankful for, and prepare for future exertion of energy. Rest becomes laziness when we're not recovering, remembering, or preparing.
- Limit distractions. It's easy to misunderstand rest as a time to scroll mindlessly through our phones while passively watching Netflix. Nothing is inherently wrong with these two things, but they aren't necessarily rest--especially when we're participating in them unintentionally. I love Andy Crouch's book, The Tech-Wise Family. In it, he recommends putting your technology in its rightful place. Crouch writes, "There is a silver lining in the way technology has clouded our lives with nonstop toil and leisure--it gives us an amazingly simple way to bring everything to a beautiful halt. We can turn the devices off." I'd encourage you to spend a few hours of rest reading The Tech-Wise Family in its entirety (even if you're single). The book is gold.
- Take a break from your routines. I intentionally don't practice my regular morning routine on Sundays. This simple act of sleeping longer than usual and holding off from disciplines like exercise helps me take a deep breath and keeps my daily rituals sustainable.
- Rest doesn't just mean sitting on the couch. Taking naps and reading books can certainly be great ways to rest, but these activities aren't the only way to recover, remember, and prepare. Sharing meals with friends, taking walks, and even doing things like yard work can be restful for us. The way we can best measure whether an activity is restful to us is to ask the following three questions. If you can answer yes to each one, you're participating in rest.
- Is this activity helping me recover energy I've exerted?
- Is this activity giving me an opportunity to remember what I'm thankful for?
- Is this activity helping me prepare to exert energy again in the near future?
The Rest Challenge
Sometimes, we need a swift kick in the pants to get us moving on things that really matter to us. Rest is no different. Therefore, I'd like you to consider the following challenge to truly rest. Rest is a struggle for me--I'll be participating in this challenge as well.
In the next week, intentionally spend three hours resting.
It's simple, but here are three parameters.
- This should be a single time block. Taking thirty minutes a day for six days to rest is one thing, but blocking three hours at one time will help you feel what it means to dig into deeper rest.
- Your rest can't include technology. During this three-hour period, put your phone in your closet, turn your television off, and step away from your devices. I'm not anti-phone or anti-Netflix, but these are often our defaults. Let's try something else and see what happens.
- The way you spend the time must check out with the rest questions. Here they are, written as affirmative statements this time.
- This activity is helping me recover energy I've exerted.
- This activity is giving me an opportunity to remember what I'm thankful for.
- This activity is helping me prepare to exert energy again in the near future.
If this challenge is rewarding, useless, difficult, easy, or some combination of these feelings--I'd love to hear about it. Email me (after the three hours, of course) and let me know how it goes. My email address is blakemankin (at) gmail.com.
Don't wait for a concussion to be reminded of rest's value. Be a person who not only works hard, but rests well.