Rest and Play

I’m getting really good at resting. I can make a whole morning disappear in the blink of an eye and all I’ve done is eat breakfast, look at the sky, read a chapter of a book and snuggle a cat. Before I know it, lunch time arrives and then I can maybe go for a walk, read another chapter, have more cat snuggles. You get the drift. But why did it take so long to learn this particular skill? And how come I still need to shake off a dusting of guilt now and then when I finally stop working or doing ‘useful’ things, and just sit?

It could be a mix of Protestant work ethic, patriarchal expectations and my own sense of self. I need to do something to feel reward; I need to be useful before I deserve a rest. And there’s the rub – resting feels different when it’s a choice, when it follows a fulfilling time, whether that be work, social engagements or anything in between. To stop and say ‘ah, that was good, that went well, I think I’ll have a cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit now’. Those are the precious times of rest when our minds, as well as our bodies, get the recharge they need. We come out ready to move once again.

But if times of stopping are pushed on us – through redundancy, or unemployment, or ill-health – it feels very different. The lingering lie-in is depressing (because it happens every day), the collapse onto the sofa is sad.  It’s as if guilt and low self-worth rob our rest of its potential for fulfilment. 

Psychologists have a term for this: resting guilt. When we stop to take a break, sit down, put the kettle on, whatever that looks like for each person, the accompanying guilt takes a seat beside us and shakes its judgmental head. We rush the tea, can’t concentrate on the book, don’t notice the clouds in the sky. And soon ‘get back to it’ without feeling refreshed at all. 

So now that I’ve mostly learned how to enjoy a day (or even an hour) off, I only need to watch the cats for a quick reminder lesson in how it’s done. Talk about relishing the joy of a lie-in, the happiness of a wintery afternoon wrapped in a blanket, the swaggering ease of a mooch around the garden. 

It’s never a waste to stop and make a cuppa. And your body, not to mention the people around you, will thank you. I’m reframing any ‘wasted time’ as ‘resting time’. Take this as your permission slip to do the same.