Whether you are a busy professional, a working parent, a stay at home parent or something in between—in our culture that always seems to demand more and more hustle from us, it can be hard to prioritize rhythms of rest and self-care. We are so drawn to crossing things off the task list, that adding something else for ourselves may seem out of reach, or impossible to prioritize. Trust me, I know. As a part time work from home Mom of five, the youngest two being a set of twins only 19 months old, I know how quickly I can swing from the highs that come from feeling productive, to the lows of being absolutely depleted. But through it all, particularly these past 19 months, I have learned a few keys to making space for rest in the little pockets of time I have built into my day. They have been anchors in the storm of an extremely busy season for me, and I hope they feel accessible and helpful to you too.
Let the drive time be your time
There have been weeks and months of my own life where driving felt like the only time I was able to sit down. And while a commute, wether long or short, is certainly no time to relax completely, (stay awake at that wheel!), there are a few ways you can maximize this time spent driving for the sake of your mental and physical health.
HYDRATE: Before you get in the car, fill up your thermos with a favorite warm beverage, and be sure to also pack a water bottle. Taking the time while you are driving to make sure you get in an extra dose of hydration, will help you arrive at your destination with a greater ability to be present. Taking care of your body takes care of your mind too.
EAT: Pack shelf-stable healthy snacks in your car’s center console, or grab a granola bar as you head out the door. Sure your car won’t be perfectly clean, but at least you won’t be arriving at your destination hangry. (Plus if you are a parent, there’s the lovely added bonus that your children won’t be able to see what you’re eating from the back seat.)
LISTEN: Jam out to your favorite band and sing the lyrics at the top of your lungs. Quiet down and listen to an audiobook or your favorite podcast. Your drive time can be your time if you plan accordingly. (Provided you don’t have screaming toddlers in the back seat that is—but snacks and water bottles will help with that too. And if not, solidarity. I’ve been there.)
Greet the day
Start the day by pouring your coffee/tea, and walking out on to your front step. Getting a dose of fresh air first thing in the morning, even if it’s chilly outside, is so good for your mental health. Taking a moment to look out at the last stars before dawn, or the sunrise (depending on the time of year, and what time you have to get up) even for a few minutes can help set the tone for a more mindful day. Take a moment to reflect on something, or someone, you are grateful for. Take a deep breath of fresh air, and look around. This moment of slowness in the midst of a day full of diapers, meetings, or both, will help center your internal world, however chaotic your outer world may be.
Cultivate daily rhythms of work, rest, and play
Our next blog post is going to focus on this aspect just a little bit more, but for now, I want you to begin to think about what your life would look like if you knew that rest was coming, because you had it written down in your calendar. Don’t the overwhelming days feel more manageable if you know that at the end of them you get to Netflix and chill with the person you love most? Or play that video game you enjoy? Or settle down for boardgames with friends? Whatever you find restful, I hope you know that is is not only okay to plan to spend time so “unproductively”, but it’s actually critical.
We all need to make time for connection with ourselves and others. We all need to do the things we love—to make space for play and laughter. Your body is not weak for needing rest: it’s human. So often our culture seems to demand inhumane levels of productivity from us. From the content mills on social media, to the failure of many work places to respect any sort of work/life balance.But this is a boundary and an intention that you can begin to set and prioritize for yourself. It might be as simple as a bi-weekly lunch date with a friend, a daily bath/shower, one night a week that you plan to make a brainless dinner or order in pizza. Whatever feels restful to you—even in these little moments, will pay off in productive dividends later as you give your body and soul the rest they need to continue to function at their highest human capacity.
Set aside one day for the bare minimum
Perhaps you come from a religious background and “a day of rest” feels heavily laden with all kinds of obligatory baggage. If that’s the case for you, try thinking of it as a day in which you do the bare minimum for the sake of spending time with the ones you love. Our family has been practicing a rhythm of trying to rest one day a week for the past five years, and it has been nothing short of life changing.
As I mentioned previously, it does require a bit of planning. I have to put this date on the calendar (for us it’s Sunday), but for that day, we try and rest as much as we can by doing the very bare minimum as far as things we consider to be “work.” We eat leftovers or frozen pizza. We forego dishes in favor or paper plates. We do the minimum as far as picking up (our kids love that part!) Instead, we play games as a family. We take a walk, or go to our local playground. Sometimes we get a drive-thru coffee and go for a mountain drive. For you, it might look completely different, and that’s okay! But setting aside a day for the bare minimum, allows your mind and body to get some much needed rest, so that you can live the rest of your life fully present.
I hope these few suggestions help you cultivate a little more rest and self-care in the pockets of time you do have in the midst of your busy day-to-day. If you give them a try, I think you’ll discover that even just a little rest, can go a long way.
–Grace Kelly and the Treehive Team