The past few days (except for today) reminded me of how important rest is to the human mind, body and soul. Since Sunday, I have experienced emotional, mental, and spiritual exhaustion because of an event that had occurred. Normally, I spend either Saturday or Sunday as a day of rest in order to prepare myself for the coming work week. Typically, it is pretty lax and lazy. What I needed was to simply rest in order to feel invigorated, refreshed, and ready to face the day’s challenges. And, that is exactly what I did. Got home from work, slipped on comfortable sweats and T-shirt, crawled into my unmade bed, and slept.
Pondering upon what to write in relationship to this, I found myself ruminating over past experiences where I have personally pushed myself to the point of exhaustion and needed to rest. And, when I say, pushed myself to the point of exhaustion, I mean physically, spiritually, and emotionally drained. And, it was in those times where I have had to allow myself to rest, despite what I was facing and overcoming.
The first incident occurred when I had found myself homeless and ended up staying at the Salvation Army in downtown Olympia. And, because I am a creature of habit and in need of maintaining some stable employment, I found work at a warehouse through a temp agency. Without a vehicle. Without funds to pay for a bus (and there were no buses at that time operating at the time I needed to be at work). My only option was to walk. From downtown Olympia out past Hawks Prairie area, I walked the two to three miles to work. Unload trucks, palletize, and shrink wrapped product for 8-12 hours. Only to walk back from work to Salvation Army in order to make it on time for dinner.
Yes, I did sleep through the night. However, speak with anyone experiencing homelessness and they will tell you that it is emotionally, physically, and spiritually exhausting. After a couple of months, was able to save up some money and get into a small studio apartment. Along with this, I was hired to work at a place that was even closer. Since I had re-established myself, I needed much rest from the experience in order to feel refreshed and renewed. This was around 2003.
In 2004, I experienced the lowest point in my life. Within that year, I had moved into a better paying job, found a better place to live and working to regain confidence and stability. During this time, my father was involved in a serious auto accident that ended up as a fatality. He survived. How, I still believe the Lord was not ready to call him home yet. This accident was very severe as my father had broken the steering wheel in half and shoved the steering column through the floorboard of his 1980 – something pick up truck. He was transported to St. Peter’s hospital and released within 48 hours. However, when he was re-admitted a couple days later, they discovered he had sustained serious internal injuries and was transported to Harborview, via helicopter. My family and I came up to Seattle. I spent the next 2.5 months living at the hospital during my father’s recovery. This caused me to lose my employment and my new place of residence.
Upon his discharge from the hospital, my family literally left me at the hospital. My mom had given me some money. All I had to my name was a backpack four cartons of Carnival cigarettes, a pair of underwear, socks, pants, shirt, undershirts and a pair of work boots. This was around February of 2005. I had no contacts or any one to call. For the next week or so, I walked around Seattle with little to no sleep, no place to shower, and showing up at 5 am every morning at a day labor place to go out and work. I’d work for 8 hours, come back and have enough money for coffee, small dinner, and sometimes, enough to sit at a 24 hour restaurant before being asked to leave. Eventually, I ended up getting into the Aloha Inn transitional housing program. This was March of 2005. Once I moved into the shared room, I desperately needed to rest. It took about a month for me to fully restore myself to a sense of normal functioning.
Sometimes, you just need to give yourself the rest you need in order to face your challenges and battles in life. Otherwise, you may not be able to gain the strength you need to overcome your difficulties
Most Religions call for a day of rest – a Sabbatical
Rhett Powers has a wonderful article on the significant impact having a day of rest is. From a Christian worldview, we read how God created all things and then rested on the seventh day:
Thus the Heavens and the Earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.Genesis 2:1-3, KJV
In giving Moses the Ten Commandments God provides this direction:
Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy, six days shalt thou labor, and do all they work; But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hollowed it.Exodus 20:8-11, KJV
Today, we struggle to even find a moment to breath – let alone find some time to rest. There are many things that compete for our attention. Despite this, sometimes we just need to rest. Regardless of what we are struggling with, what challenges we are faced, and the things we are wanting to accomplish – or overcome. If we do not engage in resting ourselves, we are wearing ourselves down to ruin. More so for those who are engaged in recovery.
Rest reduces stress
Stress is a natural part of our human existence. At work, there is stress. At home, there is stress. Some of our stress actually is good and healthy. However, it is the stress where we feel our lives are unmanageable and we feel overwhelmed that creates havoc. Powers links to scientific research and evidence associated with being overworked and engaged in High Stress situations. With this, National Geographic did a wonderful, and quite insightful program, on the Nature of Stress as a Silent Killer
For anyone who is engaging in recovery and treatment for substance use disorders understands and knows how overwhelming and stressful it is. Individuals dealing with living environments that are not conducive for recovery. Involved in co-dependent and toxic relationships. Dealing with financial chaos. Struggling with homelessness and lack of affordable housing. All of these lead to high stressful and tension situations. It seems overwhelming, never-ending, and quite defeating. And, there seems to be no respite or relief. It is one of the main reasons some individuals continue to use.
The challenge is finding a way to have a time out in order to secure some type of rest. For those caught up in the stressful situations above may be motivating factors of being admitted into the Hospital, engaged in minor criminal activities in order to have a place to rest and be out of the present circumstance and situation. For some, there seems to be no way out or relief in sight.
From a clinical perspective, it is imperative to work with patients in not only developing resilience in recovery, to develop a way to manage stress in their present circumstance and move them from a perception of hopelessness to a position of hope where they are able to find relief outside of substance use, active criminal behavior, or other such temporary reliefs. From a more personal experience, my main concern and motivating factor was to find those moments where I am able to sit down, catch my breath, and do something that bring some form of enjoyment.
And, yes, sometimes managing stress is quite difficult. That does not mean it is not impossible.
Healthy sleep hygiene is the key
Once I was able to attain stability, slept became my own respite before I was able to gain the necessary strength to move forward. Having an adequate good nights rest is important as this is the time for our bodies to regenerate and heal. The National Sleep Foundation has this to say:
Obtaining healthy sleep is important for both physical and mental health. It can also improve productivity and overall quality of life. Everyone, from children to older adults, can benefit from practicing good sleep habits.
The NSF also continues with ways an individual is able to improve their overall quality of sleep. It is also a good resource for individuals suffering from insomnia and other sleep disturbances. If there are any underlying mental health or active substance use – it is best to work with a professional therapist, substance use disorder professional, and a primary care doctor as there are complicating factors needing to be addressed.
For me, when it comes to getting adequate sleep – it means I need to reign in my habitual tendencies to push myself to the brink of exhaustion.
Time off from work
I say it, I hear other people say it, and I am sure we all say it many times ad nausea. And, it is said out of sheer frustration and exhaustion: I really need a vacation. If you work, take advantage of having a vacation. That does not mean you sit around in your Scooby-doo underoos and eat Fruit-loops while watching your DVD Saturday Morning Cartoons all day long. It is important to not only go on vacation, sometimes it is important to actually take a planned vacation somewhere. And yes, we also have a tendency to say (with much chagrin exasperation I need a vacation from my vacation).
Lolly Daskal writes in her article, 4 Scientific Reasons Vacations are Good for Your Health, the following observation:
It’s time we say “enough is enough” and learn to put our needs first. Taking time off is good for your mental and physical health, and you can come back more productive and effective. It’s a win-win.
While it may be difficult for some of those who have little in finances, saving money for even a weekend getaway will prove more beneficial than overworking ourselves. And, sometimes it takes just a Saturday drive somewhere to enjoy some much needed time away.
Self-care is the most important reason to rest
Whether it is planning a vacation, taking a weekend get away, taking a mental health/personal day off from work, or allowing yourself time to rest by after work naps; the most important factor is that you are taking time out for your own self-care. Sometimes, you have to get rest in order to meet your own personal needs. Do things that bring you a sense of overall satisfaction. Despite what is happening in your life. Regardless of the challenges you are called to battle through. Sometimes, you just have to rest in the face of the storms of adversity. This comes from a story of how Lorenzo Snow presided over a Mormon Pioneer Settlement called Mount Pisgah.
The Mormon pioneers experienced sickness, death, and were in a very destitute condition. Lacking any sustenance, experiencing disappointments, and heartache: Lorenzo Snow assisted these people in facing their difficult challenges. On one hand, it is recorded that Lorenzo Snow arouse and combined the energies of the people by organizing men into various work groups where they went into nearby towns for wages. Others, according to the account, stayed behind and engaged in being productive. Along with this, Snow encouraged the people to gather for entertainment as a means to encourage and nourish themselves spiritually (See, Teachings of the Presidents Lorenzo Snow, pp. 107-116).
Take-Away from this
Through my own personal experience with feeling destitute, pushing myself to near ruin, and experiencing physical, spiritual, and emotional exhaustion: it comes down to the plain simple truth – Sometimes you have to just rest. Whatever that means for you.
- Find something that brings enjoyment into your life – hobby or some leisure activity
- Get adequate sleep and address any sleeping disturbances or disorders through professional help
- Take time out and away from work or personal challenges and struggles
- Establish healthy boundaries in order to support your own need for self-care
Because, at the end of the day, it is all about regaining strength to face our challenges.
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