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  • Writer's pictureJoanna Townsend

Permission to Rest

What's your relationship with rest? Is it complicated? Earned? Prioritized? Guilt-ridden? I'm glad you're here. Let's unpack it.

We need rest. But you know that already. So why is it so dang hard?

We live in a hustle culture, ridden with beliefs around being productive, doingdoingdoing, accomplishing, and busyness. How many times have you heard the phrase, "I'll sleep when I'm dead." I hate that phrase. It's not helpful and it's kinda (read: super) toxic. It reinforces the idea that rest and doing less is some horrible thing—that unless we're living according to our to-do list, we're worthless, lazy, and *GASP* unproductive.

Rest is a biological necessity. It helps us with muscle recovery, energy conservation and restoration, digestive balance, memory and mood functions, and so many other biological processes. I feel like it's something we see as "optional" but I'm here to tell you it's not.

Burn out, fatigue, chronic stress, anxiety — are often all symptoms of deeper unmet needs. They're consequences of an overstimulated nervous system. A nervous system that's stuck on "sympathetic": alert! focus! stress! perform! go!

But a lot of us don't feel emotionally safe in rest. A lot of our nervous systems are so used to being "on" that they're working overtime to stay "on" (because we haven't taught them that it's okay and necessary to pause and reboot once in awhile). A lot of us feel more worthy and enough when we're achieving and moving, that we forget that our goodness isn't measured by the tasks we check off.

Rest is how we balance, downregulate, connect. It's the yin to our yang.

Give yourself permission. Mental permission. Emotional permission. Physical permission. You may not notice the positive nourishing effects right away because rest may feel so unfamiliar, and uncomfortable. That's part of the unlearning. You may feel guilty, anxious, and notice judgments and critical thoughts pop up. That's part of the reclaiming. You may not feel rested when you're trying to rest. That's part of the practice.

We can accept that something may feel uncomfortable and still do it anyway. We can accept that something may feel hard, and still try it anyway. We can accept that we're having all sorts of mental barriers, and still give ourselves the compassion and grace we deserve.

I'll happily sign your permission slip, for now. But you have to sign your own, too, eventually. For rest to feel truly lifegiving, the allowing must come from within you.


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