Sometime in 2015 I was driving my scooter to a yoga studio in Bali, where I was teaching at the time, and I had this epiphany. The thought that erupted in my mind and was ‘what if I just keep driving? What If I just keep following the road and never come back?’
My dream destination was not exotic, like a scene from Eat, Pray, Love. It was instead a quiet, super silent room, with white puffy pillows, warm blankets, and dark curtains.
I was exhausted at the time. Single motherhood, moving countries, going through a difficult divorce, then having to figure out a new life on the beautiful yet foreign island of Bali, with all the intense emotions, uncertainties and confusions that accompany such upheavals, drained the energy out of my body.
Even if I could get enough hours of sleep at night, I would wake up exhausted and need an extra cup of coffee to keep me focused. But as it goes with caffeine, it wares off fast and leaves you even more hyper sensitive and anxious.
Slowly, I started to learn that a good nights sleep is not enough.
While a good nights sleep is crucial for our physical rest, it is actually just one aspect of a larger rest equation that we require.
Sleeping is the first and most important part of the physical rest that we need. But sleeping is considered a passive physical rest, while low key activities like restorative yoga and massage are considered active physical rest. A healthy combination of both passive and active rest creates a more fertile environment from which a greater over all relaxation to the body and the mind and grow.
The second type of rest is mental. If your thoughts are bugging you when you are in bed at night, try to take small conscious brakes during your work day. Slow down, focus on your breath for a few minutes. Switch off your phone notifications. Incrementally diffuse the anxiety before your nightly sleep cycle begins.
Our third type of rest is sensory. Computer Screens, city sounds, phones buzzing, music, artificial lights, and even background conversations can cause our senses to be overwhelmed. This can be countered by switching off your phone at the end of the day, perhaps only temporarily, and removing yourself from the barrage of incoming information and demands. Spend a few moments in a desensitised space. Even driving your car in silence can provide this space. Intentional moments of sensory deprivation can begin to undo the damage caused by an over-stimulating world.
The fourth type of rest is creative. This rest is very important for those who seek creative solutions or new ideas. Usually, the most creative ideas we have occur when we are not thinking about them, but rather enjoying our time off, surrounded by nature or art. Creative rest reawakens the awe and wonder inside each of us.
The fifth type of rest is emotional, and is often accompanied by social rest. It requires authenticity, and to be honest about how we feel in the moment. It requires us to differentiate between those relationships that revive us, versus those relationships that exhaust us. It requires us to have a clear sense of boundaries with others. To experience more social rest, surround yourself with positive and supportive people.
The final type of rest is spiritual. This is the ability to connect beyond the physical and mental, and feel a deep sense of belonging, love, acceptance and purpose. To achieve this connection with yourself, engage with something bigger than yourself. Add meditation, prayer, or serving your community onto your agenda.
Our wellbeing is like a dance. We inevitably keep falling out of balance, then seek ways to restore our balance again, before it is to late and our health is compromised.
Current events are a good reminder of how our physical and mental health is a precious gift. Our highest responsibility is to take care of ourselves and then those around us, including our families and communities. When we are in peace and rested, we can make wiser choices, and act from the heart. Compassion, truly, starts at home.
Which rest do you need right now the most?