Rest, Renew, Rejuvenate... If you’re reading this, chances are you’re well aware of the benefits of applying these principles. Yet, how many of us are actually intentional in practicing the steps necessary in attaining adequate rest in order to gain a true sense of renewal and to honestly feel rejuvenated? In my own life, I have set multiple goals to attain educational and professional growth, enhance my skills in hobbies or sports, or simply seek opportunities to become a better mom, spouse, or person in general. Most of these goals are task-oriented - apply for college (check), study for exams (check), hire a personal trainer and implement a training program (check).  These checklists are present in our personal lives as well - wash and fold laundry (check), dishes (check), bath & bed routines for kiddos (check), date night (check)... the list goes on (and on!). Lists allow us to feel productive and in a society where productivity is often rewarded and recognized, it’s easy to feel inadequate when we feel we haven’t been “productive enough.” I want to challenge you to explore your definition of productivity briefly. Seriously… stop reading for a second and think about how you perceive a productive hour, day, week, whatever.

A quick google search of the term, “productivity,” will yield results that encourage output... and what best way to achieve more output than by completing a list of fully checked boxes? The problem with this standard, if you decide (consciously or unconsciously) to use it to determine whether or not your day has been successful, is that by focusing on the idea, “output equates to productivity,” and thus success and worthiness, we will constantly be expending energy to never-ending lists. In place of asking, “What do I need to do?” how often do we ask, “What do I truly need in this moment to operate at my best (leading to the ability to produce more effectively)?” When does the quality in which we achieve those tasks influence how productive we really are? There’s a popular metaphor about the importance of sharpening the tool in order to more effectively (& easily) cut down a tree (versus using a dull blade). What this idea comes down to is preparation and prevention. We can apply this mindset to the importance of self-care. I’ve spoken with a lot of individuals and parents that experience guilt as a result of taking time away from work, from kids, from house chores or other tasks, etc. Despite most people’s desire to be fully present in life and relationships, they are continuously seeking ways to become more productive with less rest. The end result is resistance, eventual burnout, and higher emotional reactivity - you know, that total freak out moment because you just can’t handle any more pressure! So, in place of expending more energy exploring ways in which you can increase productivity, time management (or whatever), evaluate what tasks you can delegate or eliminate in order to increase your self-care. Perhaps you can evaluate boundaries or begin to schedule in time for rest and relaxation. This process looks different depending on your personality style. More extroverted individuals may feel completely rejuvenated after connecting with good friends and cutting lose while leaving all the thoughts of work and home life behind for a few hours. Others may need to unplug and become completely engrossed in a book, yoga, or meditation practice. Sometimes, a really good mindless TV binge feels great (as long as it’s not a habit)!

At first, this idea of scheduling one more task may feel overwhelming. I promise it’s not that complicated. It all begins with tuning in. Learn to recognize your body’s responses to stress and respond lovingly and compassionately by giving yourself a few moments of calm. My favorite way to feel recharged is to get into nature… and this is where you can get creative! While I cannot always skip out of the office or leave the stove burning in order to knock out a few miles on my favorite state park running trail, I can absolutely open a window or step outside while closing my eyes and experiencing gratitude for the fresh air and vitamin D. By practicing mindfulness, I can focus on my breath (which is one of the quickest ways to calm autonomic stress responses) and tune into what my body really needs in that moment. From there, I can absolutely revisit that favorite trail or sandy beach through guided imagery or quickly go into a progressive relaxation exercise. Seriously, this takes less than 5 minutes and if I need more time, I allow myself to take it while recognizing the positive impact this practice will have on my overall wellbeing and my relationships. Other times, I recognize that I need more than 5 minutes so I go to my calendar to schedule in some R&R. Again, because this practice may look different for everyone, here are some ideas: schedule a weekly yoga, massage, facial, or manicure/pedicure session, check out some alternative approaches such as acupuncture or reiki, schedule a friend date or a phone call to someone important, schedule uninterrupted time to snuggle up in your fav PJs with comforting food & drink while catching up on your top TV show or favorite book, communicate with your partner or support system that you need one day a week to sleep in and that you’ll be needing some support with the kids on that day… you get the idea. The key is scheduling time to actually “sharpen your tool” so you can tackle life at a whole new angle while feeling rested, renewed, & rejuvenated. Engaging in self-care in order to feel good doesn’t have to be expensive or luxurious. Take some time to consider what makes you feel recharged. What can you start doing to incorporate and schedule this activity into your to-do list today?

Written by: Amy Begnal, Eds, CRC

Amy Begnal