When Doing Nothing is Doing Something: Glorifying Rest
Updated: Apr 8
This is my dog Scout. He knows the value of a good blankie and doing nothing. Read on to see how you can do nothing and do something at the same time! Be like Scout!
We glorify the culture of Being Busy. I’m guilty of it, too. I’m always busy. I always have too many projects and commitments. I talk too much about how I’m busy. People praise you for being busy. Being busy is equated with success and productivity!
I'm writing this during the COVID -19 coronavirus pandemic. California is on lockdown as are many states in the U.S. Several other countries have ordered people to stay home. We are all staying home and people are LOSING THEIR MINDS! We are so used to being on the go all the time, it induces anxiety and panic to be forced to stop.
Believe me, I am not a fan of pandemics nor being forced to stay home. That's not at all what this article is about. I'm not going to put a positive spin on loss of life, loss of jobs and the destruction of economies. That's not reality and it's not kind to those who are suffering.
I do think though, for a lot of us, the pandemic is highlighting how we have lost the art of just hanging around. It's highlighting for me, how much time I spend on the go, messaging too many people at once and my lack of stillness. We are forced to stay in and figure out what to do with that. Pandemics are terrible, but if I have to live through one, I'm going to try to learn some things from it.
When being still makes you want to go crazy, you probably need to practice more of being still.
Even without a pandemic, this idea of practicing stillness and the art of hanging out is crucial to our balance and well being. During a pandemic it becomes even more important.
There is evidence that being too busy makes you less productive. There are studies, like this one from Stanford University, that suggest people who multitask are actually harming their ability to concentrate and producing less, not more.
Here’s me, raising my hand, and then hanging my head in shame, but not at the same time because I want to concentrate! I am terrible about doing that!
The worst part about being terrible with multitasking and being known as someone who is always busy is that people start to expect it. They expect that you’re going to answer messages right away and think something is wrong if you don’t. You start getting more piled on to you because people figure you can do it. If you’re like me, it’s a challenge to stop that hamster wheel and say no. You feel guilty when you're not busy, or worried that you're forgetting something. You get a rush from the praise you get for your busy-ness.
While we get busier and busier, working longer and longer days, some forward thinking companies have found that spending LESS time, but doing really concentrated work has increased productivity and their workers are happier! If I start linking articles and stories I will be linking it all day long, so this teacher is giving you an assignment! Search online for “four day work week” and read about the incredible benefits companies have seen. It’s not always cramming 40 hours into four days, either. Companies have cut their employees hours to 32 without cutting their pay and their profits have gone up!
Now there is a catch to all of this glorifying and valuing rest! When it’s time to work… DO THE WORK! When employers cut down to a 32 hour work week and give employees an extra day off, they expect that during that 32 hours, they will do focused work.
Work when it’s time to work and give it 100%.
Rest when it’s time to rest and give it 100%.
I had to learn to guard and value the art of stillness in a terrible way.
In 2011, I had an adrenal meltdown. Your adrenal glands sit on top of your kidneys and they make life giving hormones. Without the hormones made by your adrenal glands you can die. I went from being active, athletic and always on the go, to adrenal crisis, blood pressure dropping to 66/42, collapsing, salt at near fatal levels and ten days in a cardiac unit having blood taken every four hours... for ten days… every FOUR hours… I shudder to think of it. I was on a heart monitor and not allowed to get up except for the bathroom. The first time they got me up for a walk in the hospital, my legs were shaking and I almost crumbled because I had lost so much strength.
My children were four and seven years old and I was homeschooling them. Thankfully I had friends who helped me out, and even friends who picked them up and took them to Disneyland which was torture since I wasn’t able to go with them.
The doctors have some theories as to why my adrenals melted down. I quit making the hormone aldosterone that regulates your salt and water balance. My condition, hypoaldosteronism, is so rare there aren’t even any support groups for it. They think it was a reaction to a medication I took or a virus. Whatever it was, it hit me like a ton of bricks, out of the blue.
Suddenly, I was forced to rest. I did lessons with my children from my bed. I had to let others take care of me, when I was used to being the caretaker. I had to calculate how much energy I had each day and then not overspend my energy allotment. I eventually got strong enough to resume normal life, but it took me a long time to heal the fatigue. I wasn’t going to miss out on Disneyland, so I bought a scooter and used it at Disneyland or any place I had to do a lot of walking so I did not have crushing fatigue and take three days to recover after walking all day.
It's a blog post for another day, but invisible disability is real and just because someone doesn't look sick, doesn't mean they are not disabled. When you see someone using a mobility device, mind your own business. I say that with a smile.
Now that is all pretty much behind me, although I do take a medicine that is a replacement for aldosterone. I recovered and got strong. I got busy again, but I value rest.
When it’s time to work, I WORK and I focus hard.
When it’s time to rest, I rest hard.
I rest without shame.
I rest without apologizing.
I rest without feeling guilty.
I say no and don’t feel bad about it.
I spend an entire day lounging in bed with my blankies, my pillows, my Netflix, my dog Scout and my snacky-snacks even when I’m not sick. My kids do the same because I have instilled that value in them.
I'm going to say something even more crazy. Employers need to let people take sick days as mental health days when they need to rest and decompress. If they do that, they are less likely to get sick! One mental health day can save you several sick days if your immune system is strong and you don't get sick.
When you do nothing, you are doing something. You are resting and healing.
Do the work. Then truly rest.
In stillness is when your creativity will peek out from behind the door and give you ideas.
In stillness your body repairs itself.
In stillness your mind lets go.
In stillness you find peace.
©2020 Heather Anne at Heather Anne Art and Soul. All rights reserved. See my copyright notice here.