Saturday, February 4, 2017

Scheduling Rest

I had a great conversation with an acquaintance one day. She and I have very different daily lives - I have 4 children under 14, she has 1 step-daughter in college; I am home full time, she works part time - but we found that we also have a lot in common. We are both very busy women with a high regard for taking care of our families, serving others, and working hard at whatever we do.

Maybe that's why our conversation moved to the subject of taking care of ourselves and resting once in a while. I think this is a concern/issue for most women in our society. Whether your children are young or older, whether you work outside the home, work from home, or home is your main work, whether your children participate in a dozen activities, a few activities, or just keep their heads above water keeping up with school, life challenges, and special situations - no matter what our daily lives look like - it seems we all struggle with staying balanced in taking care of ourselves and our families.

In a culture that says, "If it feels good, do it" and "You deserve....{just about anything and everything you want}, but also says "You must perform, be perfect, and please everyone (including yourself), it's no wonder we get stuck, have excessively high levels of stress and depression, and don't feel like we can ever rest.

Yet, our bodies were made to rest. Studies have proven that sleep is essential for health and optimal functioning. Our brains need to catch up and recharge. Our bodies need to recharge. But what about our spirits? Don't they need to recharge?

Yes, of course they do!

Sleep is essential and beneficial (and something I'm a big fan of), but it's not the only kind of rest we need. We also need down time. Time to reflect. Time to ponder. Time to ground ourselves. Time to stop the craziness and busyness of life and smell the roses, as the old saying goes.

The conversation yesterday brought the forefront that doing this often brings guilt on women. Because we tend to focus on, stress about, and heap guilt on ourselves about what we're not getting done at that moment. We forget that by taking care of ourselves (in a balanced, healthy way), we are benefiting our families. When we rest, relax, and recharge we can serve our families better. We can do our jobs better. Our moods are better. We are modeling health and balance. It is not just for us, but it is for them, too.

However, we shouldn't expect that it will just happen. Nor should we wait until we're sick to take a day off.

When I worked as a counselor, we were encouraged to take "Mental Health" days. We didn't have to wait to be sick to take sick leave. My wise supervisors knew that it was better to schedule days off to rest, relax, and recharge, than to be slammed with unexpected, often much longer and not beneficial, illness forcing one to take sick leave.

We as moms should recognize our needs for a mental health day on a regular basis. Now, I'm not talking about every week. Maybe every month, but definitely every couple of months. No, we don't ever "get a day off" of being mom, but we can take a break and take it down a few notches.

My kids still get fed on my "days off", but not much else. And guess what: they survive. Sometimes they even crawl in bed with me to snuggle when I'm half-way through a novel and still in my pajamas in the middle of the afternoon. Life goes on. The world keeps turning. Nothing comes crashing down. And we simply continue our routines and busyness the next day.

Rest is not a luxury. It is essential for well-being and health. It's not easy as a mom to get it, but it is so worth it. So, when will you schedule your next mental health day?

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