How to be better at resting

We all want more of it. There never seems to be enough time for it. When we do get to do it – we feel guilty.

In our time-poor, perpetually busy lifestyles, rest is a luxury. All we do is talk about how tired we are, how busy we are, how much we need a rest – and yet so few of us actually know how to do it effectively.

When we do take time out of our busy schedules to rest – we often find ourselves feeling restless. Or feeling as though we are wasting time, or should be ticking something off our endless to-do lists.

So, when even our allocated resting time is laced with feelings of guilt and the external pressure to achieve things, it begs the question – how can we be better at resting?

Getting enough rest is not just about feeling less groggy when your alarm goes off at 6am on a Monday morning.

Allowing our minds and bodies to rest helps us to recover from life’s many stressors, both physical and mental. It gives us the strength to be resilient, gives your body a better chance at fighting off illness and repairing injury, and even helps our interpersonal relationships to flourish.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), getting adequate rest each night allows the body’s blood pressure to regulate itself – and this is just one example of many.

But what do we actually mean when we talk about resting? Do we just mean trying our best to get eight hours of sleep at night, or are we also crossing over in the realms of self-care – a book and a long bath? Does a Netflix binge or two hours of TikTok count as rest?

‘Rest is often confused with escapism,’ Stephen Price, founder of fitness and wellness brand Movementum, tells

He says rather than using phrases like ‘switching your mind and body off’, you should instead approach rest by switching your focus, and adapting your activity to allow maximum recovery.

‘These are fluid strategies that promote you to adapt to keep doing more, not less.’

But surely the whole point of rest is to do less – or even do nothing? Stephen says this is a common misconception.

‘Being less active, less positive, less proactive, rarely lead to being more “rested”,’ he explains.

‘In fact, one of the most interesting and useful skills is being able to differentiate between different fatigue states – for example, what is muscular fatigue? What is emotional fatigue? What is metabolic fatigue?

‘Basically, we have to be able to determine between positive and negative fatigue. This is hugely important as rest as we know it (doing nothing and zoning out) is not necessarily associated with any positive health impacts or recovery.’

Chatty Dobson, yoga teacher and owner of FLEX Chelsea adds that real rest requires a disengagement from the things that stimulate our minds.

‘I would classify good rest as a state where you switch off from technology,’ says Chatty. ‘So read a book, have the lights dim, but don’t sit and watch Netflix because that won’t allow your autonomic nervous system to rest. If you’re playing a game on your phone, or comparing yourself to someone on Instagram, you’re never going to rest.

‘Not everyone is happy sitting down doing absolutely nothing or meditating, but you can always go for a slow walk or anything that takes you out of the everyday buzz.’

Stephen agrees with this, and says people often misunderstand the definition of rest. He says effective rest has to be a deliberate process.

‘Rest is often put it in the same sentence as doing nothing, when the reality is effective rest is actually quite an active process,’ he says.

‘Our bodies are incredibly resilient organisms and it’s more about creating an environment and a support to allow your body to do what it naturally does.

‘Recovery and regeneration is a science and often confused with stillness, reflection and quietness. Of course mental and physical recovery can be very effective in those environments, but you can experience extraordinary physical and mental recovery in dynamic, noisy and busy environments.’

Why is resting so hard for some people?

Some people can happily dedicate hours or even days to nothing but rest.

They can nap during the day, sleep in late if they need it, relish doing nothing if they are particularly tired or burnt out.

But for some, this just feels impossible. A lot of that comes down to social pressure.

‘Culturally we find it so hard to rest or do nothing because we have been taught over years that being busy is good and somehow it makes us feel validated,’ says Chatty. ‘In order to progress within society, we’re told that we’ve got to keep up, keep moving, keep achieving, so it’s that momentum that prevents us from properly resting.

‘Then, if you are relaxing, whether it’s for five minutes or more, there is the fear you will be perceived as lazy, or people think you should be doing something else with your time. This becomes engrained in us.’

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