Depressed? Or deep rest?

Why does it seem so hard for so many people to rest? I meet a lot of people in my work life who are overloaded. Many juggle full time jobs and parenting responsibilities, they sit on boards and devote time to community projects. They care for family members. They shlep their kids to sports and birthdays and bar mitzvahs. They host events. They take care of their homes and gardens and endless laundry and cooking.  No doubt, so many of us have a lot on our plates. Too much.

But that's not whole picture.

Even when there's nothing happening, resting is rarely the first go to for these folks. There's internal interference.

  • Part of what this internal interference involves is our yammering busy mind that urges us to do the next thing on the list, and then the next thing and the next. The list never ends. The yammering never ends. The mind comes in with its shoulds and To Dos and fills up any available space. As someone I know said the other day "my list is 32-pages long."

  • Another part of what interferes with our ability to rest is the sensation of restlessness that arises when we come upon a moment of nothing happening. It's so against the norm for so many of us to come across a still or silent moment, it's as if our bodies freak out and don't know what to do. The habit to DO something is strong and deeply rooted. The body resists, it seeks out the habitual movement and doing that it's used to.

And as a result, so many of us are downright REST DEPRIVED. The effects of rest deprivation are wide and far reaching. Symptoms like mind fog, moodiness and susceptibility to illness begin to eek in.

I know this from personal experience all too well. I hit a point in my life a few years ago when I realized that I was feeling depressed. It snuck up on me. I was way too busy and wasn't noticing how I was feeling because I was focusing on all the other things I was striving to accomplish. But at some point I couldn't help but notice that I was feeling quite flat. My life energy was dull. It felt like there was a stagnant cloud of humidity hanging over my head, leaking into my body and my life. I didn't want to do anything. Everything felt pretty lackluster.

Once I started noticing this feeling, I began to get curious about it. I have had bouts of depression before, but not for quite a while. I wondered, why did this come about? I tried to figure out what brought it on and what I could do to get beyond it. I had lots of theories. I analyzed. I searched for solutions. This went on for a while to avail. The low energy feeling remained.

And then I realized, that same incessant yammering mind of mine that is always wanting me to do more, was taking the lead with trying to figure out how to not have the depressive feeling. My mind was looking for a back door, a quick fix to some other feeling. I know better, this isn't how healing works. 

This was when I earnestly shifted my focus and began practicing simply allowing the feeling of stagnancy to be in my body, just as it was. I imagined it was like a weather system, slow moving (but moving nonetheless). I noticed where it took up residence in me: often in my throat and chest, sometimes all over. It was restless and angsty. It was sharp and tender. It was dull and achy. It was actually quite complex the more I felt into it. I realized that wasn't simply low energy. It was depressed energy - held in, and held down energyt. I allowed the sensations I was feeling to be there. I noticed and noticed and allowed and allowed. This also went on for a while. I noticed when I was restless and wanted it to change, and I took deep breaths and remained steady as best as I could, returning to an open, curious way of resting with the way that it was.

And at some point last Spring, I sensed that the energy was noticeably different. It was shifting. Subtly, but definitely noticeably.  And that inspired me to continue. One day as I was feeling into it, I asked myself "What would feel most helpful for it?" And one word leaped into my mind.

S P A C E.

My body longed for space. Just the thought of wide open spaces felt - S P A C I O U S - and gave me life! So I started taking walks in meadows. Oooh, it felt so good! Spring turned into Summer, and there was naturally more space in my work life, which also felt like a great support. I very carefully did not fill my schedule with too much (which at times was not easy). That Summer my family enjoyed some beach days, which also felt like perfect medicine. We canoed, and the sweet-smelling cedar rivers and dragonflies and turtles and green growing things were like a soothing balm for my restless angsty insides. The depressed energy continued to abate, slowly and gradually, as I continued to listen to my body, heed its advice about what it wanted and feel for the energy I longed for.

Gradually, what was depressed was replaced with a feeling of DEEP REST. Funny, these words are so similar. Depressed, DEEP REST. I realized how much I needed rest. A LOT of rest. Deep rest.

I began to feel more alive and energized, and the depression slowly and gradually dissipated into thin air.

I KNOW I'm not alone in my need for rest. Besides commiserating with the rest deprived people I know, I've been seeing interesting call outs for rest on social media such as in The Nap Ministry whose tagline is "Rest as Resistance" (which I LOVE!) and Daring To Rest which is calling for a Rest movement.  I say it's time.

Who can relate?

Where in your life can you do less? Where can you slack? How can you add space? Share your body-wisdom noticings about rest here.

Holding space for you to find more of your own,

Mara Wai