September 24

Is rest more than just sleep?


It may seem odd to be posting an article on rest at the end of the summer holiday season – wouldn’t it have been more helpful beforehand? Probably not – you’d have been far too busy trying to empty your inbox to read it!

No, now is a better time, particularly if you did manage to escape to the open country, the fells or the beach. While you can still remember how it made you feel, capture some element of it to carry you to the next break.

Rest is about more than holiday though. The chances are, you escaped from your normal day-to-day routine – maybe your normal environment too. This change in routine, pace and place allows us to pause and recuperate. How can we maintain that when we are not on holiday?

Pause: rest is more than just sleep

Rest is the one thing that the modern life of busyness has robbed us of, mostly without us noticing. ‘Having a rest’ is now almost seen as being lazy, a slacker or “ not committed”. We know intuitively when we should stop, but we’re not listening to ourselves any more.

There was a time when large corporates, universities and churches allowed staff to take a sabbatical from their work. Some people used the space to write books, visit and work in other parts of the world; or missionaries to go on furlough, return home, and catch up with family and friends.

True rest is that which sees you lose track of time, and return to the human being that you really are. Outwardly it may look pointless, but inwardly it is invaluable.

Why, when we know this, don’t we use it?

My hunch is that we have allowed technology to rob us. It isn’t just TV – it’s our ‘always-on’ attitude and – more importantly – the ease with which we can entertain ourselves in any downtime: whether through Email, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest or any other social media platform. When were you last bored?

Try restoring a day of rest - free of all digital devices, maybe TV and even shopping. You’ll be surprised.


Creative activities can aid recovery from traumatic events. This may explain why Churchill spent a lot of his spare time painting. 

You may not have his painting skills, but ‘creative’ could be something as simple as letting your inner child out through using nature to create something in the style of artist Andy Goldsworthy, model-making, playing music or writing poetry. Or even skimming smooth flat stones across that lake you sat beside - or am I the only person who feels an urge to do this whenever faced with an empty expanse of water?

Taking creative time out can provide space to think and feel through past experiences. Art therapy has been found to be beneficial in building resilience.

One simple way to get this is via an adult colouring book. Many people find these helpful in managing stress and anxiety because the precision of physical action required is completely absorbing. It seems that when we focus on physical activity, our mental activities are able to run free.

If you want to create the pictures rather than colouring them, try something inspired by the Zentangle® method of pattern drawing. It’s easy to learn, absorbing and very satisfying. Here is one of mine (right).

Lines And Textures Doodle

If art is not your thing, experiment to find something that is. 

A friend of mine spends some of their weekends as a volunteer on a steam railway, shovelling coal into the white-heat of the firebox. It is so completely different to their day job that it has recuperating effects.

Rest allows for recovery as much as rebuilding for the next event that life will serve up. As Ovid, the Roman poet (43 BC to AD 17), said: ‘Take rest: a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.

Next steps...

If you want to delve into this subject more, here are 3 suggestions:

1. The ten most restful activities - BBC Radio 4. (#1 is not what you'd expect...)

2. Pico Iyer: The art of stillness - TED (I particularly liked this)

3. The seven types of rest that everyone needs  - TED article (which is your greatest need?)

That's all for this week - do leave me a comment or tweet and I'll make sure to get back to you. 

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recuperation, rest, resting, sleep

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