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Why Rest Is Important For Mental Health And Wellness


Today I want to tackle a critical part of self care that is often overlooked:  why rest is important for mental health and wellness.
At what point in our lives do we learn that rest is not good?  That it is not and should not be a priority?  Kids don’t even think about resting.  Babies rest because they need to, toddlers rest when they are told (most of the time, that is!), but kids of any age always rest if they want to.  They listen to their bodies.  
My four year old son fell asleep on the couch the other night during our evening reading time.  Maybe because it was his brother’s night to choose the book and he chose a huge book on all the presidents of the United States.  Maybe Thomas Jefferson isn’t his jam.  Or maybe, just maybe, he knew what he needed was rest.  He wanted to lay down.  So he did.  And then he fell asleep with the lights on, his dad reading, and the cat’s butt in his face.  He just wanted to. So he did.  
I think around middle school, but especially in high school, there is a shift towards busy.  Towards perfect.  Towards being and doing. I’ve sat with countless high school students who feel it – they yearn for their younger selves, for the freedom to be and do and rest as they choose. But the pressure to succeed, to achieve, to be too busy for rest or family time or connection creeps in.  It becomes the status quo.  It becomes addictive.  And the sad thing is, many of their parents see it happening and view it as normal.  High school students are busy.  That’s life.  Self care, rest, listening to your body is not a priority.  In fact, it is frowned upon.  It is viewed as he ultimate inconvenience.  

I’ve seen countless exhausted and stressed clients come into my office because they just can’t take it anymore.  But when I call them on it, when I tell them to rest, to stop with all the doing, to say “no,” they cringe.  They freak out.  They find a new therapist.  No.  That’s not the answer I’m looking for.  I want someone to tell me how to make it hurt less without having to slow down, without having to disappoint anyone, without having to say “no.”  
Perhaps their parents have modeled this for them – perhaps they expect it of them.  Because they’re exhausted too, because this is what it means to be an adult.
WRONG.  Being an adult means being able to take care of yourself.  To say “no” without feeling like the world is going to end.  Friends, we have limits on our time, talents, abilities, and bodies.  We need to own them, trust that voice we hear telling us that it doesn’t feel ok to be this sad or tired or stressed.  We need to hear that as a fire alarm, loud and relentless, until we are willing to put out what’s burning us alive.
Until we are finally willing to rest.  

So what do you think, my friends?  Is rest something that is easy for you to prioritize?  Do you know any other reasons why rest is important for mental health and wellness?  Please feel free to share with us in the comments!  

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