The one question to ask that get at the root of what’s been preventing you from thoroughly relaxing.Sep 25, 2022
If you're exhausted from high-functioning anxiety, then you need rest. You're fantasizing about being able to take a real vacation or at least not check work emails before bed. You've probably even googled how to rest or how to rest without feeling guilty. I get it. It makes sense to try and find strategies to make rest possible. It's how you've tackled many problems by researching, working harder, and doing more. But if your high-functioning anxiety is removed, restorative rest will continue to elude you.
So instead of searching for ways to rest, let's rewind. Back past feelings. Back past thoughts and look at your beliefs.
The question that will get to the root of what's been preventing you from resting is this…
What do you believe to be true about people who take rest when they need it?
You can search online for a "100 ways to rest" list, but not a single one will work if you continue to believe that people who rest are lazy slackers. Anxiety throws out words like lazy, slacker, blowing off responsibilities, sloth, loafer, and lackadaisical. The general conscientious of anxiety is that rest is wrong and that if you participate in it, you'll lose out on opportunities, getting ahead, and life in general.
Did you notice that I said "Anxiety" uses words like this, not YOU? This is because your threat system (nervous system), which shows up as high functioning anxiety, solely aims to be ridiculously risk averse. So it will always try and convince you to keep doing the same things because it feels less risky to do the things you know, even if it's emotionally hurtful and preventing us from living a more fulfilled life. So anxiety activates your threat system, focusing on safety, not long-term fulfillment and joy. So although rest brings you long-term benefits, Anxiety is going to promote overworking and overachieving,
So ask yourself the question again - what do YOU (not anxiety) believe to be true about people who take rest when they need it?
You may feel confused at this point because you believed your thoughts were how you felt about something. However, you can't think all of your thoughts. We will look at how you feel about people taking rest when they need it.
If you get an out-of-office reply that says the person is on vacation and requesting no contact while they're out, do you feel a longing to be able to do the same?
When someone sets a boundary and turns down an invitation stating they are tired and need time at home to recharge, do you feel impressed by their resolve?
Does overhearing someone say "No" to a request for volunteers make you envious of how easy they made it look to say no instead of yes?
If you agree with any of the above statements, it shows that what anxiety believes is not what you think about rest. You've noticed when others take a rest and desire to do the same. You marveled at their ability to know what they need and then set the boundary to make it happen.
Now that you know that you desire to rest, here are three ways to learn how to add more rest to your life. The first focus is on active rest. Rest isn't just about laying flat on a bed. The body can be restored and the mind renewed while being active. So get curious and find a few activities that are of interest to you. After doing them, write down how rested and restored you feel. It might take a few tries, but I'm confident you'll land on something that works for you. Two areas my coaching clients identify as restorative active rest is getting out into nature and getting creative.
The second way you can learn to rest is by establishing end-of-day rituals. Create an intentional plan to mark the end of your work day. If you continue to think about work, your brain doesn't know that you're no longer working. Whether you work at home or outside the house, it's essential to have an end-of-day routine. The routine can be simple, like 30-second mindfulness where you reflect on ending one focus to begin another. Or, more elaborate, where you listen to a song and do a dance. But the repetition of a ritual and the intentional focus on the end will help you leave work at work.
The third way is to create a pattern of journaling or processing things that worry you during the daytime hours. By choosing an intentional time to focus on topics that are causing you stress or worry, you can direct your thoughts to that time, allowing it easier for you to sleep at night. So at 2 am, when your brain decides to buy a new home, you can shut it down immediately, knowing you have dedicated time to problem solve and research. It also helps build trust that if something is worrying you, you truly take the time to give it the attention it needs. The designated time can be journaling, audio journaling, walking, or typing. Whatever format feels most comfortable to you.
When you eliminate the false belief that people who rest when they need it are lazy and then implement these three ways to learn how to rest by finding activities that feel restorative, establishing the end of workday routines, and intentionally spending time to process worrisome topics, you'll find rest more accessible to you.
The benefit is cyclical; the more you allow yourself to rest, the less you will experience High-functioning anxiety, and the less you experience HFA, the easier you will rest. The ability to rest with intention is a powerful tool available to you right now that doesn't require additional energy or time. I'm off to a local river for stand-up paddleboard time, my favorite active rest activity.
What would you say if I told you that spending 5 minutes per day supporting your mental wellness could improve your gut health? And 5 minutes per day helping your gut health could improve your mental health?
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