The fast-paced lives that we lead these days are fuelled by a complex array of factors that make stepping off the treadmill increasingly more difficult. Whether it’s living up to the expectation of others or living up to the expectations we place on ourselves, when we continue to allow these forces to override our body’s needs, it’s no wonder we end up feeling stressed out, burnt out and depleted. We often arrive at this point as if seemingly out of the blue, so out of touch with the factors that we’ve allowed to creep into our lives and pull us away from the truth of what our body is really yearning for.
Firstly, let’s turn our attention to the external factors that rob us of our connection to the role of sleep and rest in our lives.
Whilst there are many wonderful things about technology, whether it’s the devices we use to communicate and work or the ease and speed of travel we enjoy, there is no doubt that technological advances have had a significant impact on the pace at which we operate and function in our lives. Intrinsic to this pace are the expectations that accompany it where we are all expected to do more with less and faster as well, resulting in a chaotic lifestyle that has surreptitiously come to be accepted as the ‘norm’ by most of us.
In addition to this, it seems our working life has found a way to encroach itself into our personal time, whether this is due to the capacity for us to be accessible around the clock due to technology or the increased competition and expectations in the workplace, forcing us to surrender 9-5 and instead be available as and when it’s needed. In fact, it is not uncommon to find workplace cultures that actually frown on people who work 9-5, despite the fact that a 38 hour working week is what is stated in their employment contract.
Societal changes also have an impact on the crazy pace that our life has taken. There are more women working these days which is fantastic from the perspective of personal empowerment, but there is no doubt that the economy has adjusted to most households requiring 2 incomes so it has now become more of a necessity for most women even if it is a choice as well. This can place significant pressure on all members of the house where work/life balance or blend remains ever so much just out of reach.
With the advent of technology, whilst we can all enjoy the ability to live in different corners of the globe, it does mean that there is less of an extended family unit which means that we often live the siloed life of the nuclear family leaving us to ‘do it all on our own’ instead of being able to rely more on the support of those around us.
Fuelling all of this is the consumerist society where we are under constant pressure to have more, to want more and to consume more. This in turn leads to a culture of trying to keep up, where we feel unworthy if we’re not able to do so, particularly if this impacts our family and their consumerist desires as well.
Finally, if we look at what is sitting beneath this whole dynamic, we find that maybe, just maybe we have allowed ourselves to fall victim to feeling unworthy and as if we are not enough. Where we base our own self-worth on achievement, thus creating a compulsive drive within us to achieve and comply with societal norms. Where we compare ourselves to others, what they own, what they have achieved and how they are ‘having it all’.
What we need to recognise is that firstly, bio-individuality applies to rest just as much as it does to nutrition and exercise. That we all need different levels of sleep and rest and that some people are able to sustain their energy more easily than others. We need to embrace and honour our own physical needs where we tune into them and honour our body’s own rest and sleep requirements and not berate ourselves for doing so.
We also need to recognise how dangerous it can be to compare ourselves and our lifestyle with others as we never know the complete story of those people. Perhaps they have more family support that enables them to spend more time on their work and less on housework and family responsibilities. Or perhaps, unbeknownst to us, they are actually more tired, burnout and desperate than we realise, but are too afraid to put their ‘superwoman’ or ‘superman’ cape away and to allow themselves to melt into the pace at which their body yearns to live.
So the question then remains, how can we become more aware of all the ways we allow ourselves to be lured away from the essential nature of rest in our lives? How can we unhook ourselves from all the external pressures and expectations and bring ourselves back to ourselves, where nourishment, rest and relaxation are central to a natural way of being?
We leave you with this quote as something to think about as you move forward into this week with your contemplation of how to create a foundation of rest in your own life.
“When we live without listening to the timing of things, when we live and work in twenty-four-hour shifts without rest – we are on war time, mobilized for battle. Yes, we are strong and capable people, we can work without stopping, faster and faster, electric lights making artificial day so the whole machine can labor without ceasing. But remember: No living thing lives like this. There are greater rhythms, seasons and hormonal cycles and sunsets and moonrises and great movements of seas and stars. We are part of the creation story, subject to all its laws and rhythms.”
― Wayne Muller, Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives