I’ve been noticing something recently. I’m really struggling to rest and, if I’m being really honest, I’m resisting resting. Whilst resting isn’t a new problem for me, it’s concerning me as I’ve noticed how much of a problem it really is.
Despite feeling increasingly tired and frustrated, I’ve resisted resting. Despite feeling resentful towards others that are feeling well rested, I’ve resisted resting. And despite feeling like the harder I try to get everything done the less productive I’m becoming, I’ve resisted resting.
And I know from working with busy working mums, I’m not the only one who resists resting. If you are resisting this too then I hope sharing this with you helps.
As you probably know I’m on maternity leave with my 12 week old daughter at the moment. I came into motherhood this time knowing that I wanted to honour the fourth trimester (those first 12 weeks after giving birth) time by resting as much as possible. I had a clear intention. And I’ve experienced the pain of resisting resting in the past, having suffered with postnatal depletion 5 years ago.
So I’m in a season in my life, as a new mum on maternity leave, when I feel I have good reason (interesting that I feel I need a good reason!!) to rest. I’ve given myself full permission to rest……….and yet I’m still resisting it.
Not only that, I know how important it is to rest. If you’ve not yet listened to my podcast interview with performance experts The Energy Project (you can listen here), we talk about the research and science behind the importance of rest and renewal. So I know logically how important it is. I know that is helps me to be at my best so that I have the energy to do the things that are important to me in life. And yet I still don’t rest. Can you relate to this?
Here’s why resting is so important….and most of this you know already. As busy working mums we wear so many hats; we’re a mum, some of us are also step-mums, we’re probably a wife or a partner too, we’re a daughter, we’re a friend, we’re an aunt or a godmother, we’re a colleague, we’re a leader and we’re an employee…..and the list goes on.
We become so stretched we’re like an octopus with our tentacles being pulled in all these different directions. We become so stretched that being worn out is the norm and we lose sight of ourselves and what’s important. When we experience this, we’re not gathered into our core strength.
We weren’t designed to be doing constantly. Our body’s natural cycle is a rhythm of being active and then inactive. Between expending energy and recovering. But too many of us have completely overridden our natural cycle, to the point that we’ve lost touch with it. That means we become completely ungrounded. We become stuck in our fight-or-flight response. This can take us into a dangerous place of burnout if we’re not careful.
And I should know better, having experienced adrenal fatigue and postnatal depletion I learnt the hard way the cost of doing this. And yet here I am still struggling to rest!
What I know to be true for me is that the more I need to rest, the less I do actually rest. It’s like my adrenaline takes over. I try and do one more thing before I rest….and then just one more thing…..and then the rest never happens. When I’m tired I feel so out of control that my need to control kicks in. Instead of going to bed earlier, I stay up later to get more stuff done. I wake up feeling less rested and the downward cycle continues. I’m less productive so it takes me longer to do things, so I have less time to rest. Can you relate to this?
As any mother knows, life with a tired child is hard work so we tend to do what it takes to make sure they get adequate rest. It’s funny that the one thing I protect like my life depended on it is my children’s rest. But I don’t protect my own rest even though my life does depend on it!
Over the last 13 years I’ve worked as an executive coach, employed by some of the world’s largest companies to help their people make positive behaviour changes. Over this time I’ve studied psychology, neuroscience and therapeutic interventions to help my clients. I’ve learnt that most of us know what to do, but we don’t do what we know. So I’ve dedicated my career to working out how to enable positive behavioural change. Actually making the shifts in behaviour that we know we want to but sometimes, for a number of reasons, don’t actually do.
So I’ve had to go back to what I know to be true for me to make it happen:
1) Know my why and make it a big one!
If our ‘why’ is strong enough, we’ll figure out the how. I have to remind myself why rest is so important. For me I remind myself of my purpose. I have to connect with something bigger than me to enable me to make behaviour shifts. Having a reason that is less about me and more about what it gives to others is important for me to make this happen. As Karen Brody explains in her book Daring To Rest:
“The world needs you and what you have to offer. But it needs the full alive, well-rested you, not the exhausted you. Imagine a world where women make rest and rhythm a priority and operate from their full power.”
I’ve come to believe that for the world to be the kind of place I want my children to grow up in, it needs more women like you and me offering it our best. We can only do that if we’re fully rested. So I’d love to see us all burning our lights brighter but without burning out. We can only do this if we’re rested.
2) Know that others are watching
We often perform at our best when we know others are watching us. As the saying goes – children don’t do as we say, they do as we do. They become our mirrors. So if my children being well rested is important to me, then I have to role model that. So I remind myself that if I’m struggling to rest, the chances are my children will too. This helps me to step into the best version of myself. As our children deserve for us to model what being well rested looks and sounds like. It starts with us.
3) KISS – Keep it Simple and Sustainable
All the research on behaviour change indicates that small habits (also known as rituals) are the easiest to implement and maintain. Just like brushing our teeth. We don’t have to think about it, it becomes an automatic habit and behaviour. The simpler the behaviour change and the less time it takes, the probability is that we’re more likely to do it and sustain it. So I’m committing to a new ritual. I’m going to do 10 minutes conscious rest a day. I’m starting small knowing that my inner critic won’t try to argue that it doesn’t have enough time.
If I don’t have 10 minutes free a day to rest then something is seriously wrong in my life! By starting small I’m hoping to build a habit and ritual that will grow. And that I can sustain!
4) To be authentic
The resistance to rest is so deep in our culture that we need to consciously choose to be different. To go against the grain of going hard and fast. When we hear that hustling and pushing is to be admired. That being in continual achieve and produce mode brings us the greatest rewards. It takes courage and conscious choice to do things differently.
So I have to remind myself that I don’t want to be like everyone else. I want to be me. The best version of me. And I have to connect with what is important for me. If that means going slower when everyone is going faster, then so be it. We have to be courageous to be ourselves in a world that is constantly telling us how we should be.
I hope by offering these insights it helps you to rest if you’re also resisting it. But also to think about what will help you implement a behaviour change that you might want to.
Here at Wisdom For Working Mums’ we’re all about reinventing how we combine work and motherhood without sacrificing our sanity and wellbeing.
So please could I offer this simple ritual as a starting point. A way in which we can collectively start to change the cultural resistance to resting. Instead of asking each other “how are you doing?” Can we replace it with “how are you being?” Can we start honouring and acknowledging each other for slowing down and resting? Will you join me in this?
I know that I, and so many women in this growing community at Wisdom For Working Mums, will be celebrating you for taking the time to rest and renew. By doing so we can start to operate from a place of being gathered and grounded. Because I know the world will be a better place for you and I being rested and at our best.
We’re genuine, like-minded women, just like you!
We’re a community, reinventing how we combine work and motherhood without sacrificing our sanity and wellbeing.