Rest for the Weary: Why and How to Implement Intentional Rest

If we really want our mind, body, and soul to reach their highest potential and most productive state, we need to master the art of intentional rest. God wants us to make time for what soothes our soul.

Rest for the Weary: Why and How to Implement Intentional Rest

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We have all heard the saying, “there’s no rest for the weary.” Working hard despite exhaustion might as well be the American motto, after all.

Despite feeling drained, we might stubbornly try to push through brain fog or fatigue. We might try to impress our parents, bosses, teachers, or whoever by “doing all the things” and squeezing as much as possible into a 24-hour day.

While this might go well for a short time, eventually our productivity suffers because we didn’t pace ourselves.

In recent years, we’ve learned that living to work is the fastest way to burnout. We go and go and go because we’re trying to win, to be better, to beat the next guy, to get ahead.

But even marathon runners take breaks during races. In fact, rest and recovery are an essential part of building muscle just as much as hitting the gym.

I found out the hard way that if rest isn’t regularly scheduled, our bodies will force us to take a timeout.

However, physical relaxation is practically worthless if our thoughts and emotions are at war within us.

If we really want our mind, body, and soul to reach their highest potential and their most productive state, we need to master the art of intentional rest.

Misconceptions of Rest

I’m not a psychologist or a therapist. But if I had to guess, I’d say many are afraid of being alone with their own thoughts. If placed in a silent room, most people wouldn't know what to do with themselves.

Our environments are constantly overstimulated. Our senses are bombarded with so much noise that we become numb to what’s really going on inside our own heads.

There is too much pressure, negative news, advertisements, trigger words, background noise, stressors, responsibilities, and conflicting social media messages that all evoke strong emotions.

In reaction, roller coaster cortisol levels deplete our energy just to try to process everything our senses take in. And it isn’t uncommon to develop complexes, insecurities, anxiety, or other mental health struggles in response.

Recently, stigmas around mental health have diminished. People are becoming more aware and in tune with the effects our vices have on us and are making a greater effort to balance them out.

But while the recent self-care movement brought out many positive changes, it’s also caused some people to develop unhealthy habits to the other extreme.

Rest is not self-indulgence and it’s not laziness.

Self-care is not synonymous with hedonism. There, I said it.

Spending lavishly on retail therapy or beauty treatments or [insert your weakness here] might feel good in the moment, but in the end, it might cause a great deal more stress if you must work even harder to afford it.

That guilty pleasure you divulged in from the fast food line might really cause you to feel guilt later, which is the last thing your brain needs when trying to come into a restful state.

Resting and taking care of our being doesn’t mean doing whatever we want, and it doesn’t exactly mean not doing anything at all.

Sorry – Netflix n’ chill and a bowl of popcorn isn’t resting, necessarily. Sure, sometimes your body and mind really need to lay low, both literally and metaphorically speaking.

But how many times have you vegged out, ignoring all your responsibilities, and felt totally good about it afterward? Not often, I’m assuming.

Rest is intentional.

Setting aside quality time to be alone or at least removed from distractions and sensory overload takes practice and patience.

However, it isn’t a privilege, it’s a necessity. Your mind needs time and space to reflect, digest, and dump what doesn't belong.

Did you know? Rest is a spiritual commandment.

Just as God called his handiwork (AKA mankind) “good” and then rested, he expects us, the ones created in his likeness, to do the same.

God loves when we put our heart into something. He loves hard work and the masterpieces that follow it. If nature and the amazing creations around us are proof of anything, it’s exactly that!

But the Lord never intended to make work our highest priority. We were never created to worship work.

Do you know anyone who cannot sit still for a few minutes? If they are not doing something with their hands, they feel unproductive and useless.

When Mary and Martha opened their home, Martha was frantic, and understandably so! The scripture says Jesus recognized she was “anxious and troubled” about many things. But he still reprimanded Martha for allowing herself to be consumed by busyness.

While things must get done, God wants us to make time for what soothes our soul.

He also wants us to be good stewards of the body, mind, and soul he designed for us. God gave us all the keys we needed to do so, including emotional intelligence.

Sometimes this means passing on partial responsibility so we can focus on other tasks.

Delegating is not a weakness. Trying to carry a bigger-than-you burden can appear impressive, but it only brings unnecessary stress and self-detriment in the long run. A mature person realizes they’ve bit off more than they can chew and recognizes others are capable and willing to assist.

Moses’ father-in-law encouraged him to delegate the burden of leading God’s people. In Exodus 18:18-23, Jethro told Moses that he would surely wear himself out by taking the task on his shoulders alone.

As Christians and humans, we need a way to escape the constant mental taxations and daily exertions.

That’s why God created a sabbath for us. This of course has two meanings, both in the natural and spiritual sense. For it’s in Christ and his word that we find true peace and rest.

Different Types of Rest

In the literal definition, resting simply means to stop moving. That’s why sleep really is the most notable form of rest. When our minds and bodies are sick, sleep is the best antidote we can get.

However, it takes more than sitting still to really feel rested. If we can’t quiet our minds from the disturbances in our surroundings and all the many thoughts that swirl around, no amount of laying down is going to satisfy.

For someone like me who rarely has time for housework during the week, knocking out a few big tasks on the weekend could be the best way to relax your mind. But when this becomes obsessive or your list is too long, you need to learn to step away and say “that’s enough” for your own sake.

For some people, running or working out is a way to bring peace to their minds and bodies. But this takes dedication and accountability!

For others, just getting out of their comfort zone or regular routine is a good way to attain rest.

The end goal is to release endorphins and other happy hormones. Whatever helps you relieve stress and clear your head, find a way to implement it.

Here are several natural, totally free methods to reduce stress.

10 Ways to Implement Intentional Rest

1. Prayer. Maybe this means meditation for you. But for me, addressing my Creator in conversation is the easiest way for my mind to find rest. Your words don’t have to be formal. You don’t need to quote scripture. You don’t even have to pray aloud, although it helps me keep my mind from wandering. Yes, the God of the universe already knows your thoughts, but he still wants to hear from you just as much as you need someone to talk to.

2. Get in Nature. If you can, find a physical place to connect with creation. Listen to the wind in the trees, watch rivers roll, put your fingers into the earth and savor the smell of dirt. Disconnect from urban life for a bit.

3. Melatonin, Valerian, or other natural sleeping aids. If you aren’t getting a full REM sleep each night, your brain and body aren’t able to detox properly. Excess toxins can lead to brain fog and fatigue during the day but can eventually cause other issues in the body as well. Natural hormones like melatonin help maintain our circadian rhythm and reset our bodies overnight. Note, melatonin doesn’t put you to sleep, it only brings your own sleep hormones into balance. If you’re having trouble sleeping, ask your doctor if they recommend melatonin for you. I buy the Sprouts brand and take a few drops 20-30 minutes before I hit the hay.

4. Turn off electronics. Research proves LED lights wake up our brain and can cause our minds to be overstimulated. Even if you fall asleep easily, watching a screen or even having electronics near you while you sleep can disrupt your sleep quality.

5. Use calming scents. Smelling essential oils like lavender (read about my lavender fields adventure here) or vetiver can relieve tension and release pleasant memories. You can put a few drops on your pillow or rub it on your wrists and behind your ears for your body to absorb. Chemical-free candles are a good way to surround your senses with warm light and calming scents, as well. I love mine from local, female-founded, Zuri Crafts!

6. Read a book. While it can be stimulating (I’ve been known to lose sleep over a good book!), reading can healthily numb your brain from chaotic thoughts and to-do lists for a while. Better yet, read scripture before bedtime to fill your mind with God’s promises.

7. Coloring or drawing. If you’re a perfectionist and can’t imagine coloring outside the lines, this one might not be for you. However, for the rest of us non-Type A people, taking crayons to a coloring book or doodling is a great way to relax the brain.

8. Journaling. Using our hands to write our thoughts on page is extremely cathartic. This is especially true if you start out your page with at least one thing you are grateful for. Writing out our thanksgiving is a powerfully positive reflection exercise that will quickly alter your mood. After that, try stream of consciousness writing which is basically gibberish on paper. Write whatever comes to mind until you feel you’ve had a successful brain dump. You can throw away the page when you’re done, but no one will read what you write, anyway.

9. Bubble bath. I admit I never saw the purpose in taking a bath. I definitely thought “What a waste of time.” But then I got a new house with a big tub, and I tried it. I added some detoxing Epsom salts, lit some Zuri candles, and closed my eyes. And I stayed there, in the absolute silence, and realized how needful it was to just stop and pay attention to what was going on in my head.

10. Move your body. Obviously, this isn’t a restful activity in itself, but exercising your body is one of the surest ways to release endorphins. If it’s a recreation or sport you enjoy, even more so. Plus, the body and mind rest much easier at night after you’ve worked up a physical sweat that day. #Science.

Make Time to Rest and Reset.

The truth is, you owe it to yourself to rest. Lack of time isn't an excuse, either!

As you look forward to the upcoming Labor Day weekend, schedule intentional rest into your plans. Give your body and mind the much needed TLC they've been craving.

Drink enough water. Laugh freely. Play with your pets and your kids. Go for a sunrise or sunset walk. Do something you enjoy. Make your bed. Talk about what really matters to you. Set down your screens.

Pray through your concerns but remind yourself there’s only so much you can control, and that’s alright.

Find your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual rest. Bask in it; soak it up, then find yourself ready to face whatever comes next with rejuvenated resolve.