When I read this article about the importance of rest days it was like a light bulb went off in my head. Sometimes I need to rest as I’m recovering from illness, but I don’t need to wait until I can’t carry on at all before allowing myself to rest. I also need to rest on average days to take of myself. After the worst of a migraine is over I often have days when I am completely exhausted and unfit for much, but not so ill that I feel content to do nothing all day. Every so often, at other times I am just worn out for no reason in particular. My instinct has usually been to press on, to try and catch up. But this rarely results in much productivity, just a lot of frustration.
This article suggested an alternative. And it has been really effective. As soon as I declare a Rest Day (usually sometime mid-morning, after several false starts, lots of absent-minded staring and weak attempts to coax myself into action) the day turns around. It’s not avoiding work. It’s not laziness. It’s not procrastination. It’s giving myself, my mind and my body, what I need – and taking pleasure in doing so. It’s an act of self-compassion and kindness.
How I put the idea into practice
I don’t tend to have particular days set aside on my calendar as rest days like the author of the article. I tend to take them when I can feel myself slowing down. I don’t know if this is the best strategy but it is still an improvement on my previous approach.
I don’t just wing it on a rest day. I want the day to feel relaxed and easy-going but I don’t want to skip my self-care and good habits. I use gamification for motivation and rewarding myself, and I don’t want to lose precious points. As I am deliberately doing the right thing for myself I think that should be rewarded too. So I have made a list of relaxing, enjoyable and restorative activities that I can do when I need a rest day. In writing my list I thought about things that are relaxing for my body, for my mind, things that lift my mood. Doing these things ‘counts’ in the same way that completing a housework or study task would count as time well spent.
My symptoms aren’t always predictable, and often produce conflicting needs. Today my mood would be best served by visiting my allotment and doing a little planting. But my body hurt just having a shower so that’s out. Lying down reading yesterday was nice, until I started to get double vision from the migraine. Having a long list of alternatives to hand makes it easy to find another activity to switch to. My list is a work in progress. I keep a copy on my to-do list app so that it is accessible wherever I am.
I set my pomodoro timer for 60 minute ‘work’ intervals and at the end of each hour I have a fifteen minute break for eating, moving about, whatever I need. I use Habitica for tracking my healthy habits and goals and my daily routines. The essential self-care items are tagged and those are the only ones I need to attempt on a rest day. To avoid accumulating damage my avatar visits the inn for a rest too.
Sometimes I will spend the whole day resting. Sometimes I drift back into light housework or easy work tasks as I begin to feel better.
- read a book
- read in bed
- make a mug of hot chocolate
- eat ice-cream
- call a friend
- write a letter or text
- write in my journal
- dictate ideas for my journal or blog
- memorize a poem
- listen to music
- watch a familiar film
- do a crossword
- meditate (especially these self-compassion meditations)
- watch crap telly
- read gardening book and make plans for the next season