The Necessity of Rest

Quite often, life reminds me of the importance of rest.

I say “life reminds me” because I rarely plan “rest” as a part of my day. When I go too long without it, it always finds a way to force itself into my schedule.

By “rest”, I don’t necessarily mean sleep. Rather, rest is a break from my regular routine. Maybe it’s a skipped workout, or a couple of days without picking up my bass, or a round (or nine) of indulgent eating.

It’s easy to feel guilty about resting when we could be doing more productive activities. But the way I see it, rest itself is highly productive because it enables us to return to our normal lifestyles with renewed enthusiasm.

Earlier this month, I was in the middle of a long butt kicking streak. I was writing a lot, enjoying my work, eating healthy, and adhering to a solid workout routine.

Then, my 25th birthday happened.

My birthday fell on a Wednesday this year, so celebrations began the preceding weekend (read: Thursday). Friends took me out to lunch, my family had a party, and I was also celebrating my friend’s birthday, as he was born five days before me. Long story short, I fell off pretty much every wagon I had been triumphantly riding.

I had trouble finding the time to write. I stopped working out. I missed my yoga class. I slept in. And I ate about a metric ton of birthday food over the course of six days.

Of course, I felt guilty about breaking all my healthy and productive routines, but my friends and family were quick to use my 25th birthday as a rationalization for my stepping off the path.

It sounds like an excuse, and I suppose it is, but at the same time, it wasn’t until I stopped moving that I realized how necessary my little vacation was. My muscles were sore from working out six days a week. I was weary. I was burnt out. I was tired. So, life found a way to sneak some rest in there. If you don’t give yourself a break once in a while, eventually you’ll crash.

Now that my actual birthday has come and gone, my vacation is over. It’s back to healthy eating and exercise, and it feels fantastic. I can approach these things with fresh strength and focus.

In music, a rest is an interval of silence; no note is played. Victor Wooten teaches his students to “play the rest”, which means to treat it just like any other note, even though none is audible. The rest should be felt, as opposed to rushing through it to play the next note.

Rest in real life is the same way. We need time designated to let our bodies and minds recover from the diligent adherence to our normal routines. It takes energy to stick to a workout, eating, or writing regimen. Every once in a while, you need to take a break. Go ahead. Skip a workout. Have some birthday cake. Sit and do nothing. Then go back to being awesome.

No matter how much we love our routines and lifestyles, we still need to be able to rest and enjoy it guilt-free. Afterward, we can come back stronger than before, with new appreciation for the lives we lead.

So, go on. Take a break. It’s Friday.

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