Why am I having difficulty resting ?

Ever have those times when you are left with some empty hours in the schedule or have a weekend coming up, expecting this to be a much-needed relief from your busy and draining life, but end up feeling completely unrested by the end of it?

Either you spent that entire time guiltily thinking about the various other chores you “should be” be doing instead, or you ended up actually filling with loads of errands and socialising that left you more drained than before, or you actually did NOTHING but ended up still just as tired when the week started!?

As a society, I have found that we struggle to find truly restorative rest, and below I summarise what I believe to be our greatest barriers:

Acceptance of our need for rest
One of the most common beliefs I hear from clients in my work is that their inability to be constantly “productive” is disappointing, flawed, and even shameful.

It is an undeniable consequence of the way modern society functions that we are expected, AND expect ourselves, to be defined by our “productivity”. Where the outcome matters above all else, regardless of how gruelling the process was. So, when we start to slow down, falter, and get tired, it makes us question our self-worth and overall competency – after all what am I worth if I am failing to do the main thing the system around me values?

This resistance to the idea that we are not all Superman, that we may actually be flawed human beings that have quite a limited capacity of how much we can care and do, stops us from even starting the process of resting. This means room for the idea that rest need not be shameful, that it can occur in the absence an obvious outcome that “entitles” us to rest.

Knowing the right kind of rest

There are some that really do try to prioritise rest and still feel dissatisfied. This may be because they are not getting the right KIND of rest they need.
Contrary to popular belief, rest is not just checking out of life, doing nothing, and sleeping as much as possible.

Don’t get me wrong these are still extremely important, but in reality, we often need many different types of rest.

Physical rest can be the most obvious kind, such as passive resting of our body and cognitive system, like sleep and mindfulness.

Cognitive rest to give our executive functioning a break from making decisions, planning, and processing lots of information.

Emotional rest where we can give our nervous system a break from taking others’ emotions, or taking a tech break so we can regulate ourselves
properly again.

Social rest where we fulfil some of our social needs such as connection and/or intimacy.

And finally, active rest, which often I believe is the one that is most misunderstood. Active rest is where we seek to enter a flow state by engaging fully with an activity we are doing. This can come in the form of exercise, but also any other activity such as a creative pursuit, time in nature, engaging in a hobby. The list is actually extensive.

The key is finding the needs are most seeking to address, and finding the right kinds of rest for that.

Fixing the systems that burnt us
Now having learnt all we can about rest, the most important caveat is that resting once is unlikely to give just what we need. Especially if after resting we end up returning to the same system of operation that depleted us in the first place. In fact, it is most likely that when you end up resting only after you are completely burnt out, it takes a very long time until you have recovered enough to actually start enjoying it or feeling a surplus of internal resources.

Rest is most effective when it is consistent and adaptive. This means that it is important to constantly identify what works and does not work for us in an honest way, and build in habits that prevent us from reaching the point of depletion. As humans that are flawed and ever-changing however, these systems need to be flexible to adapt to the various internal and
external changes to our lives.

I hope this helps you start rethinking the role rest plays in your life. And remember, sometimes the most productive thing you can do is to choosing to rest !


Looking for ways to enhance your rest and recovery routines? Reach out and book an appointment, we have many ways to assist enhancing your wellbeing 🙂 https://www.contemporarypsychology.com.au/book-online/