How to Rest (Episode 74)

One of the main reasons we don’t rest is that we’re not taught how to do it. And even if we know how, we’re not encouraged to rest, either. Join host Kay Coughlin for this discussion of some tactics to build rest into your life – one of these only takes one minute! Throughout the episode, Kay references the guide she wrote called “How to Rest,” and you can get that in the Library area here or here. As always, you can expect to be guided with no judgment and no guilt!

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Do you need to find a way to get some rest and take control of your own life again? You can, even if you believe that you can't possibly take care of yourself when the people around you need you so much!

Transcript: How to Rest (episode 74)

Hi there. I’m your host Kay Coughlin. And you’re listening to From One Caregiver to Another. I am a life coach for family caregivers and sandwich family caregivers like me, who want to get some rest and feel less lonely. I taught myself how to navigate all of my responsibilities and get into the mindset I need so that I can set boundaries, have self-compassion and prioritize myself so that my needs get met too. And that’s what I help my clients do also. And if we can do it, I know you can, too.

This is episode 74.

I am recording this episode on the morning after a big gardening project. So I don’t know if you can hear it or not, but my voice is actually a little bit hoarse today. Uh, you know, after being in the dirt and the mulch and, and all of that. And out in this spring air last night, I’ve just got a little bit, uh, I guess, of throatiness going on.

The reason I was doing this and the reason that it even matters for the episode today, when I’m going to talk about how to rest, is that I manage a community garden project at my church. So last night we gathered to do the kinds of projects that we need to do every spring. And that’s work like repairing the fences because we get all kinds of things that break into the garden and dig through the fences and dig under the fence. We have to rebuild some things that fell apart during the winter, different garden beds and stuff like that. And then we have to go about the business of starting to manage weeds before we plant anything.

I’m recording this in the middle of May and we won’t be planting anything in that garden until probably the second weekend in June. And part of that is so that we can get ahead of the weeds. So the reason that it’s relevant to this topic today is that I had already planned to do a podcast episode about rest. What I think is really fascinating here is that as worn out as I am from the heavy physical labor of all of that gardening work last night, and so I’m physically worn out, but I’m also kind of mentally worn out because I was managing a team of volunteers. We have this rolling team of really wonderful people who come through and help out.

So, you know, I’m tired from that, but at the same time, I feel great. I feel like myself. I’m worn out, but I feel in my soul, I feel restored and refreshed and renewed and I feel energized.

And that’s actually my definition of rest. I don’t use a dictionary definition for rest anymore because I find it doesn’t help. There are just too many things that people tell us we should do for rest or ought to do or ways rest ought to work. And, you know, none of it’s really very helpful because I just don’t find that it’s practical or real world. Or I find that a lot of us punish ourselves when we can’t do it the way other people tell us that we should. So I just created my own definition of rest.

Now I created this definition because I have been thinking a lot about rest for months now, maybe this is even going back a year. And if you listen to the podcast episode that aired last week, and that one was called, “I just need a break,” that episode was all about how we as humans, we have a right to have breaks. To get to take breaks and we can make sure we get those breaks by scheduling them and coordinating what we can and asking for help to make those breaks happen. As hard as that is, it’s really necessary. And we have a right to.

One of the reasons that all of this is coming up a lot for me right now is that I seem to have reached an age where I just can’t ignore my own need for rest anymore. I just can’t function well these days without rest. I’ve always been a big do-er. I like to do things. I like to go after things. I like to make things happen. And it’s not actually that I don’t have the physical energy to do that anymore. I have been doing that for so long that it has mentally worn me out to a degree.

And I’m finding at this age that I just don’t want to function from that worn out stage anymore. I think I’ve been doing that for a long time. And I’ve decided that’s not okay anymore. I need to claim my own human right to take breaks and have rest.

As I’m recording this episode, I’m about to turn 49. Now I am a cis-gendered woman, which means that I was identified as female at birth. And that is the gender identity that has always worked for me. And that means I’m at this normal biological age to be going into pre-menopause.

About a year ago, it’s probably why I’ve been thinking about rest for a year or so, I really noticed that my body was starting to change in some subtle ways, but ways that I just couldn’t ignore anymore. And then it was right around last December, I realized how much I really needed more rest than I had been getting. And I’m talking about here both rest and sleep, and I’ll get to why that’s really important in a minute or so, but just staying with this, this idea about my age here, there are just so many changes that are really normal for women who are premenopausal like me, but this change in my need for rest and sleep, that’s one that’s just been really noticeable for me.

Now, you know, before anybody writes in and says, you need to go see a doctor, I want to let you know, I’m getting excellent medical care. There’s nothing wrong with me that I know of. It’s just that I’m 49 and, and I have changed. So after I really started to see how much more rest I needed than I was actually getting, I started to make some changes in my life.

And that’s when I started to think about why I wasn’t resting and why I thought I couldn’t rest. And as all of this was going on, I wrote a guide called “How to Rest.” That’s right. It’s just called “How to Rest.” It is totally free. You can get the guide over in my membership for family caregivers. And it’s also available in my free Boundaries Community.

The Boundaries Community is the place I maintain online for anyone. You don’t have to be a family caregiver to be a part of that community, it’s for anyone to come together and talk about boundaries. It’s really important to me. So anyway, the guide is available in both of those places and it is everything that I wrote about in “How To Rest.”

And, you know, I do webinars on this from time to time. I present on it from time to time. Everything that I talk about with, “How to Rest,” is based on my own personal experience. And it’s based on my experience working with my coaching clients over the years. In other words, I’m not going to pretend to be a sleep researcher or a rest researcher. That is not true.

This is all very practical. It’s coming from a place of practical experience. And I think it’s something that I am uniquely suited to put together in this way, because I’m not a researcher. I’m not doing anything that goes against the science that I’ve read about rest and sleep. This is my interpretation of it to make it more useful for those of us who just have to live our lives.

So the main thing that I have found, and listen up here, is that we don’t rest because of two things. We’re not taught how to rest and we’re not really supposed to rest. I’ll get back to the “we’re not taught to rest” in a minute, but this idea that we are not supposed to rest, it really is this cultural norm where we’re supposed to push through.

We’re supposed to do just one more thing. Find another way in our day to impress somebody else, you know, maybe with our ability to multitask or whatever we need to do to impress somebody. So I do think that this problem about resting is very cultural. It is ingrained in us. So I did write my guide, “How To Rest,” to talk about that.

And I wrote it to teach us how to rest. We’re not taught any of this, how to do it, why we need to do it. We are certainly not taught how to tell people that we need it and deserve it because we’re human and it’s a human right.

Okay. So here’s the difference between rest and sleep. The way I talk about rest now is that it is the umbrella category for anything that we do that helps us feel rested, restored, refreshed, renewed, energized. That’s my definition I talked about earlier. So sleep falls within this umbrella category of rest. It’s just one very specific kind of rest. Now it is an incredibly important kind of rest and there’s lots of research on this, but I have found that when we don’t get enough of rest in general, our sleep suffers too.

I noticed this with my children when they were babies. Really, if they weren’t getting those little naps that kids do during the day, half hour here, 45 minutes there, they didn’t sleep as well at night. And I’ve made that connection myself as an adult now. And for me, it doesn’t always look like naps. Although my days are glorious when some of my rest does look like naps. But when I don’t get enough rest, I don’t get enough sleep. So I’m talking about rest as a bigger category.

Now, since I am not a sleep researcher, okay, I want you to know that I will always refer any clients who need help with sleep, I will always refer them out to a doctor or someone who does specialize in sleep. This is really important to me. A lot of my clients work with other kinds of professionals on different problems that they have maybe more clinical problems. So again, just to be really clear here that I’m not trying to take the place of, of a doctor who specializes in sleep.

Here’s what I do want to do, though. Here’s my take on this. I want to encourage all of us to start incorporating rest into our lives. Think about that for just a second. Just finding a way to incorporate more rest into your life. If that seems really far away for you, like something that’s not possible, I hear you.

I’m here to tell you that it IS possible. Might not be easy, but it’s possible. And I’m going to start with this one basic resting activity. I think you’re going to be surprised about this. I have found that in my work and in my life, this is the number one strategy to help anyone feel more rested. And I’m including myself in this and here’s what it is.

Are you ready? You’re not even going to believe how simple this one is. It’s breathing, just breathing. So if you turn this off now, if you stop listening now for some reason, or if you only get one thing out of this podcast episode, I hope that this one will be it. Please breathe. Take deep breaths as much as you can.

It’s really amazing, I think, how much that we hold our breath. I do this too. I also tend to restrict my breathing. It’s as if there’s a band, like a metal band around my lungs. And I only breathe a little bit and this band, stops my lungs from breathing. It’s not that I have a breathing problem. It’s that I’ve created this restriction in my mind. When I can remember that I’m doing that, when I can catch myself doing that and then take a few deep breaths, I start to feel more rested immediately.

Now you can use any breathing technique that feels right to you. There’s so many out there. There’s yoga. There are guided breathing meditations. What I find is that as long as whatever you’re doing means you’re going to be taking deep breaths, so really getting that air you need fully into your lungs and then releasing that air again fully back out, that’s going to help you feel refreshed and rested. So whatever technique works for you just use it. I mean, it’s, it’s great if you found something, that’s great, but you can also just take a deep breath. Three of them, five of them. That’s about enough to do it for me.

So let’s do one together right now. I know this is a little weird if you haven’t done guided breathing, but just stick with me. Okay. So just take a deep breath in, fill up those lungs and then let it out.

Gosh, that’s really amazing. I just did one breath with you and with myself here. And I know that if I were to do three or five breaths, I would continue to feel even more refreshed.

So trust me on this, remind yourself, do whatever you need to, to help yourself rest. I mean, one thing that you might do, I have certainly done it, is put a reminder on the lock screen on your phone. You can put a sticky note on your mirror. You can remind your spouse to let you know if they see that you’re not breathing or tell a best friend, whatever it is that you need to do to remember to breathe.

I just think that’s a really great and instantaneous way to start taking better care of yourself. And also start noticing if you’re not really breathing. I mean, if you’re taking shallow breaths like me or even holding your breath, like I sometimes do. I’d love to hear from you. So let me know about it.

I’m also going to tell you that I am not going to pretend to be particularly good at remembering to breathe just yet. It’s only been a few months that I’ve been reminding myself about this, but I am building it into my days as an intentional practice, because it helps me so much. And honestly it can take as little as a minute. And so I just don’t have any excuse.

Now, let me tell you a little bit about the two kinds of rest that I talk about in my, “How to Rest” guide. When I was writing that guide, I finally found the words for something that I realized I’ve been doing a long time, which is being intentional about getting two different kinds of rest. Or maybe I should say two categories of rest that have different purposes. I call them surface rest and shifting rest. I really get into this in the guide.

So I’m not going to go into it that much here and also in the guide, I do give you a list of some common examples. So your best option really is to, after you listen to this, go download the guide and I’ll leave a link for that in the show notes.

If worse comes to worse, you can just go to my website, facilitator on fire dot net, and it will take you right to my links page. And there, you can find the link to download that.

But let me explain it just a little tiny bit, about the difference between surface rest and shifting rest. Surface rest is the kind of rest that doesn’t take much of a commitment or resources. So breathing, that’s surface rest. The purpose of this rest is to give you a momentary uplift. It can take a minute. It can take five minutes or half an hour. So other examples of this kind of rest surface rest would be just putting your feet up for a few minutes or maybe taking a walk or calling a friend to talk, whatever works for you.

That’s really important here about rest. It has to be the things that you actually find to be restful. I’ve picked on bubble baths in some other episodes. And, and that’s one, baths don’t help me feel rested. They just don’t. They never have. I also don’t like to go to the spa that doesn’t feel restful to me. So rest, it has to be personal to you and it has to work for you, or it won’t work for you.

So, when it comes to surface rest, I really find that it’s best to get surface rest activities frequently throughout the day. There’s no right number or wrong number here. I mean, if you’re talking about only breathing for a minute at a time, do it 10 or 15 times during the day or, or whatever, but try to sprinkle it throughout the day.

Surface rest really helps to refresh us and help us function better throughout our regular daily activities.

Shifting rest. This is the kind of rest that takes more of a commitment and it usually takes more resources like time and money and energy. And the purpose of shifting rest is to help you feel more like yourself on a much longer-term basis. It helps you remember who you are and it gives you the headspace to act and behave in ways that really are in alignment with who you are. That’s what I mean by feeling most like yourself.

So, what are some things that are shifting rest? Well, this is where I would put sleep. Whatever time of day you get your long daily sleep, for most of us it’s at nighttime, but if you’re a shift worker, or certainly if you’re a family caregiver like me, your long daily sleep could be a different time of day, but that is shifting rest. Without it, you’re not going to function very well over a long period of time.

Other things that fall into this category, this purpose for shifting rest would be a creative pursuit like art or writing or photography, or maybe a hobby that you love. For me, that’s gardening. It could be playing sports, could be making time for deep spiritual practices. And it’s also going away on vacation. Or maybe going away for a retreat. You know, those things count as shifting rest.

And for me, gardening is shifting rest, even though it tires me out so much, physically, I love it. And it’s because I end up feeling reconnected to myself and reconnected to the world when I do it. When I get enough time in nature, and let’s be honest, using a shovel and digging in the dirt and really being in contact with the earth, I’m a better person. I’m nicer to myself. I am nicer and kinder to the people around me. I have more space in myself for compassion and being a visionary thinker and all of the things that in the end make me happiest about myself.

So I’m not going to try to end this by giving you some magical list of how you know that you’re not getting rest. I’m just going to give you credit that if you aren’t getting rest, you know that you’re not getting rest. It’s something we tend to know about ourselves without having to think too hard about it. I don’t, I just don’t think that you need me to make a list for you of what it feels like to not get enough rest.

And I also want to tell you that if you’ve never been able to crack the code on how to rest, you’re just not alone. There’s so many of us out there who are exhausted and pushing ourselves too far and too long because we haven’t figured this out yet. I’m not judging you for this. I don’t think there’s any shame in not knowing it because I mean, how could we know how to do it? We’ve never been taught to do it.

And if you’re anything like me, you have probably been actively discouraged from doing it. People have come up with all kinds of reasons and excuses why you shouldn’t be getting rest. My hope instead out of all of this today is that you can give yourself permission to reconsider rest and how you can incorporate it into your life.

The reason that I put my guide, “How to Rest,” over in my Boundaries Community and in my membership. So you can get it from me, whether you’re a family caregiver or not. The reason I put it there is that I know that you’re going to need other support too, if you’re going to claim your right to rest. And that’s what those two places are for, to have a safe place to start figuring it out, to start asking yourself: what help do you need? How do you ask for help? How do you receive help? And what kinds of things that you might want to do differently so that you can take care of yourself in different ways and, and really see what works for you.

There just aren’t a lot of places for those of us in the U.S. to do that. You know, together with other people who are really concerned about that and who are not going to judge us or shame us for it. And that’s what those places are. So, you know, if you’re not a family caregiver, go look at the Boundaries Community. It’s free. You can join that if you’re a family caregiver as well.

If you are a family caregiver, check out the monthly membership, see what you can get out of that. We can talk about rest there.

So, I would really love to hear what you think about rest and, and my perspective on rest. I would love to hear what you are going to put on your lists of surface rest and shifting rest, because those are different lists.

You can always leave a review here and tell me, you know, right here with this episode, or of course you can go over to the Boundaries Community or the membership community to discuss this. Or you can leave a comment for me over on social media. You’ll find me most active on Instagram and on LinkedIn.

Thanks. That is it for today. Now go get some rest.

If you liked this episode, you have to go check out my monthly membership for family caregivers, and that includes parents, who want to get some rest and feel less lonely. It’s the place for emotionally safe community, brave self-development, and self-compassion. You’ll find the link to it in the show notes and over in my Boundaries Community.

I can’t wait to be with you again in the next episode, From One Caregiver to Another.

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your guide

Kay Coughlin, CEO of Facilitator On Fire, is a business coach for the non-profit sector and social justice businesses. She is also well-known for being an advocate for family caregivers.

In every forum she can find, she shouts that it's OK for every human to earn a living, set and enforce boundaries around their bodies, thoughts, feelings and actions. You can join Kay's free, private online community to talk about boundaries here.

Kay also teaches about emotional labor, how to rest, and Human Giver Syndrome, and is the host of the "From One Caregiver to Another" podcast and author of "From One Caregiver to Another - Overcoming Your Emotional Grind."

Kay is well-known for her public speaking on boundaries and self-care. 

Facilitator on Fire is a subsidiary of Donor Relations Mindset LLC, which Kay founded in 2015. She lives with her husband and children in central Ohio, and is the primary caregiver for her own mother, who lives right next door. Kay can be found on LinkedIn and Instagram.

Copyright 2022. All rights reserved, Julia Kay Coughlin and Facilitator On Fire.

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