In Episode 2 of the Healing the Strong Black Woman series, I spoke with my beautiful soul sister Zoe.
One of the things she highlighted was how her childhood conditioning meant she found it extremely difficult to rest.
That rest would need to be earned.
That she did not deserve rest until she had proved herself worthy.
Following on from my last blog, learning to lean into your needs is a huge feat.
Especially when your core programming did not encourage this practice.
Because to identify your burnout, exhaustion, capacity limits, it would require you to tune into yourself, check in with what you need and work out how to meet that need.
Rest is a NEED.
For me, rest was earned by doing and by doing until your body screamed back.
Then and only then would it be ok to rest.
✔Have you done all the chores on your list?
✔Have you utilised all the hours in the day productively?
✔Have you achieved all of your goals?
✔Have you returned all the calls and messages?
✔If there is space, how do you fill it? And if there is any more space after that, what will you do?
This had been a way of living for me for many years. Needing to fill the hours in my day with productivity.
One of the things that I have realised is that, resting requires me to BE in my body and being in my body was not a familiar feeling nor was it comfortable, at first.
It even felt unsafe!
Even in moments I attempted to rest, maybe watch a bit of TV, I would become so restless because my mind would be telling me that there are a million other things that I could do, that I could use this time for something more valuable.
So, what is the value on rest? 😳
Because surely the time spent resting was just as valuable as the time spent doing the laundry.
More to the point, why was it difficult to be in a resting space? What was the mind telling me about being in a position of rest?
My mind would tell me that there wasn’t enough time?⏰
That the task I was putting off could be achieved instead? Hell, I wouldn’t amount to anything if I kept procrastinating.
That the housework needed to be done, because I was the only one who could do it.
That I could do that thing I wanted to do but clearly had no energy to but I should find that energy somewhere because, look, here is the time to do it.
Not realising that all of the things I wanted to be, do achieve, create, complete would require a rested, nourished body and mind in order to do the thing to the best of my ability.
Who remembers The Sims Game?😆
I remember when I was about 11/12 years old, I used to play The SIMS game on my PC🎮
To play the game, you would create a character and customise it to your liking; hair, skin colour, clothes etc Mine was always a reflection of who I wanted to be, the type of hair, clothes, even skin tone.
You would start with a house and then you would need to get a job, so that you could buy the furnishings you desired, the more you earned the more you could buy.
Each of your characters needs would be identified via gauges at the top of the screen, they would measure if the needs were being met and let you know if they weren’t.
Eating, Sleeping, Playing, Resting, going to the toilet, washing.
🚨Going into the red signalled urgent attention🚨
You would have to navigate a day by creating tasks for the character to do in order to achieve the needs and earn the monies.
If any of those core needs were not met, then the character would display signs of decline. She could die of starvation, fall asleep standing up or on the job, get fired, become depressed from no fun, burnout from exhaustion, pee on herself or become ill from lack of hygiene.
I won’t lie, I really loved that game.
But what I found really interesting was the ways in which you could fulfil the need to rest. I would send her to bed but her need to rest would not be fulfilled.
And when rest was not honoured, she had little to no energy for anything else.
Her interactions with other characters were miserable.
I would get her to sit in a comfy chair, watch TV, or read a book and her need would fill up.
It made me think about ways that we see rest and I remember being fascinated by this particular need because I had always associated rest with going to bed, sleeping or just being in a horizontal position.🛌🏾
Can you imagine if we had real life indicators letting us know which needs were running low and needed filling up?
🤩Funny enough, our beautiful intelligent bodies are actually designed to let us know when our barometers are in need of attention.
Life has us so disconnected to ourselves that we often miss the signals. We are uncertain how to adjust the barometers according to our individual requirements and easily burnout, become depressed, unfulfilled, uninspired and potentially suicidal.
So, what do we know about rest?
Well, I’d say that depends on our early impressions from those around us growing up.
I believe our thoughts and feelings about ourselves and the world are largely moulded by our upbringing. By our caregivers. By the adults and elders, our environments.
Unless you have grown up in an environment that taught you how to connect to your inner world, tend to your emotions, tend to your mind and body, I think it’s highly unlikely you will have the ‘awareness-of-self’ required to know your state of being at any given moment.
Sharing on my experiences, I was raised in environments with “doing”, “action”, “productivity” and “achieving” messages, that were signals of worthiness, that I was told and shown.
In addition, I faced sexual trauma in childhood, I was impacted by neglect and abandonment, by both of my parents in early childhood, and became an 'adultified' child.
I feel that the internal programming from my experiences added to the need to achieve and do as a way to prove that I was lovable and that there was nothing wrong with me!
🥵I then worked in environments that were fast paced, where I thrived under pressure and could multi-task the hell out of projects. On reflection, I can see how I thrived in environments that recreated the instability of my childhood.
It can be very difficult, if unsupported, to navigate your own inner world and begin repairing and tuning in to your needs and desires, to what fills you up inside and supports living a in a more harmonious, joyous life.
As I navigated the last 2 years, repairing my foundation of self and rebuilding mine and my children’s lives, I was forced to focus on my own needs and desires.
And because of my stubbornness, I know that crisis was the only catalyst to get me to do that.
It really was a complete system reset⛔
My own needs and desires were entangled in so much that was not me or mine.
And for the first time, I was beginning to attune to myself in a way that I had never done before.
I was afforded a lot of time to be with myself.
Rest was a necessary part of my recovery. But guess what, I did not know how to truly rest.
I did not truly understand the importance either.
5 things I noticed when reconciling with rest:
My physical reactions to resting. My body had pre-programmed settings to my old environments. When I was resting, I was fidgety, I was anxious, I was restless. My mind was talking, my body was responding. My mind was scanning mental lists and which ones I could fit into the time I had. Sometimes I would start multiple things and not finish any of them. This was also true for when I had time without the children.
Rest means different things to different people, so what did it meant to me? Rest didn’t always mean going to bed. Rest doesn’t necessarily mean laying down in bed. Rest doesn’t necessarily mean sleeping. Rest doesn’t necessarily mean silence and isolation. However, it could also mean all of those things and more. Sometimes resting was watching TV, reading a book, colouring in, taking a chilled walk, meditating. Listening to music. Dancing or a combination of those depending on what I needed.
Rest felt like a waste of time - The value I placed on the things I would and wouldn’t do. Whether I am cleaning, cooking, shopping, playing, walking, working. Each one has a value to me. How I decided to do one thing over the over was largely based on how important I made it and how much time I would allow myself (or get carried away doing or not bother mind the time it was taking). You see, rest felt like a waste of time. Wasted time. I didn’t see it as a nurturing, loving, necessary practice for wellbeing. I didn’t respect it.
Resting was usually afforded when I was sick, burnt-out or overwhelmed. What would it be like to rest before that happened? What would it be like to say, you know what, I have done enough today, I am tired, I am physically and/or emotionally done for today? I realised that by exhausting myself, I would then be worthy of rest.
My thoughts when I had nothing to do – because there was always something else to do. I would question, where I had heard that thought? Who told me that thought? Whether I believed that thought and if it was aligned with who I was? What would happen if I didn’t believe that thought? Was that a consequence that I had set for myself or was it a “bar” that had been set by others? i.e. family, friends, society etc Then I’d ask myself, what is the new thought that I want to replace it with. And I would notice how all the reasons I couldn’t do or be was because of an old belief from the past or messages from the world around me.
Rest means to recover Strength 💪🏾
5 Ways to support recovering your Strength:
💚Ask yourself: How do you fill up your barometers?
💚Notice: How do you maintain those barometers and what happens when you don’t.
💚Question: Decide what the limits are and where your boundaries lie.
💚Connection: Connect to support systems that help you to practice this because if this is a new way of being for you, it will take practice, self-compassion, self-forgiveness, self-love and self-care in order to facilitate these changes and Ill be honest, it’s a shaky ride.
💚Practice: Using self-compassion as your guide, practice, practice and practice!!
🌺Rest is sacred🌺
We deserve to be loved in our entirety. And as we learn to love ourselves in our wholeness and treat and care for ourselves with the utmost respect and compassion, we come to realise that rest is a VITAL part of our existence.
Without rest, we threaten our livelihoods.
So, just as we honour and devote to our Gods, we should honour and devote to ourselves, knowing, without a shadow of a doubt, we are worthy and deserving of unconditional love.
We are worthy of rest! And you set the bar to your own barometers!
Because you are unique.
Sending you love and patience as you ease into sacred Rest!
And if you have any other tips on rest, please share them below!