When my twins were first born and they would miraculously nap simultaneously, I would lie down on the couch with a spoonful of peanut butter in one hand and the remote in the other and watch reruns of Dawson’s Creek. I was in what one might call “survival mode,” where all I could manage to do was completely check out. I’ve come to realize that checking out disguises itself as rest, but doesn’t deliver on its promises the way real, restorative rest does. Real rest brings us back to our center while checking out takes us far away from ourselves.
Real rest is hard to come by though, isn’t it? When someone’s licking your arm and someone else is shooting you with a Nerf gun and someone else is banging a pot with a hairbrush, all you want to do is escape to your phone and start lapping up Instagram like it’s your next meal.
But at some point, we need to stop relying on survival mode and learn to practice the kind of rest that brings us back to ourselves and back to the moment instead of removing ourselves from a place called now. What this has meant for me is re-learning what is actually restful and then incorporating those resting practices into my life more regularly. Creating a rhythm, so to speak.
Nurturing a healthy life rhythm starts with a dialogue with yourself. Think of the kind of conversation you might have with a dear friend – non-judgey, genuinely supportive – except that you’re having it with yourself. Because you are the dear friend to you. (Revolutionary.)
You might awkwardly ask yourself: “What would you like to do if you had three hours to yourself? What would be fun, delightful, freeing?” Or “What do you need today? What does your body need? What does your soul need?”
A life rhythm is about determining your needs. It includes things you need to do daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually. These are things for your body, your mind, your soul, your hygiene. The things that checking out simply can’t nurture.
One time, during a particularly extended season in the postpartum cave, my husband said to me, “Why don’t you go to the salon and get your hair … cleaned.”
Perhaps getting your hair done regularly is something you add to your life rhythm. Maybe it’s five minutes of centering breath or meditation. Maybe it’s taking a multi-vitamin every morning or washing your face. It’s about finding simple practices that help you own the now, not numb it. The trick, I’ve learned, is not so much about the practice itself but actually practicing it.
Here are some ideas …
For daily rest: a shower, washing your face, time outside (so good for your mental health), the ritual of coffee or tea time, five minutes of writing, stretching, a dose of beauty treatment.
For weekly rest: exercise, creating something — soup, a collage, a garden, meeting up with an ongoing group of some kind, doing an activity with your kids that you really enjoy.
For monthly rest: a visit with a therapist or a spiritual director or counselor, a visit with a safe friend, finishing a good book, a walk in a particularly beautiful place, a babysitter.
For quarterly rest: booking a hair appointment, attending a creative workshop, taking a lesson that might enhance one of your hobbies, visiting an inspiring place.
For annual rest: a weekend spiritual retreat, a getaway with some girlfriends, a getaway with your partner.
This is not a checklist or a to-do list. These are ideas you might want to consider as opportunities for recovery and restoration. Begin by thinking about the things in your life that help you return to you. What are those things?
If you’ve forgotten, it’s OK.
Some of the deepest and most beautiful parts of us go dormant during certain seasons of life and we have to do the sacred work of waking them back up. This is a beautiful, brazen journey back toward our center. So don’t beat yourself up if you can’t remember one single thing you used to love to do. After all, it’s so hard to think when someone’s licking your arm.
But maybe tonight, after everyone is finally in bed, you could get an old receipt from your wallet and you could smooth it out and turn it over and jot some notes on the back of it about what would help you breathe. I know going to Paris would help you breathe, I get it. But let’s start with something a little more attainable so that we don’t totally sabotage ourselves right off the bat.
Once you have a few things written down, consider how those few things might get incorporated into your life – daily, weekly, monthly.
Sometimes we need a spoonful of peanut butter and Dawson’s Creek. But usually what we’re really longing for is living from our center. The etymology of rest includes “freedom from toil.” I love that. What would bring you freedom from toil? Now go give it a whirl, my sister!
Leeana Tankersley is the author of Brazen and Breathing Room. She lives in San Diego, California with her husband, Steve, and their three kids: Luke (7), Lane (7), and Elle (4). Learn more about Leeana’s work at leeanatankersley.com.
This article originally appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of Hello, Dearest. If you didn’t get a copy and would like your own, you can subscribe to get Hello, Dearest in your mailbox every season. If you subscribe, forward your receipt to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll shoot a copy of the current issue in the mail to you for free … just because we like you.