As December approaches and I start reflecting on the year that has been, I keep thinking about how important intentional resting is. Not just as an act of self care to switch off from the chaos around us, but as a necessary part of being a truly productive human being. Intentional rest in this context would be activities that force us to slow down and be present in our bodies and minds. Activities such as prayer, meditation and breathing exercises, amongst others, bring us to a place where we focus inwards and not on the outside world, and that in my opinion, is a very difficult task.
Intentional resting gives us time to restructure, to look inwards and slow down long enough to take note of what’s really important once the resting period is over, and if there’s one thing that 2020 has forced me to do, it’s to sit all the way down and reevaluate my entire life. 2020 put me in a state of constant panic. I was worried about myself, the world and people around me. So even when I was physically forced to be at home during lockdown, my mind was still running laps around the idea of all the bad things that could possibly happen in life.
Being able to maintain my sanity was only possible after I moved past my state of panic, and slowed my mind down long enough to highlight the things that were really important to me. Therefore, I decided on two activities that I felt would calm my mind, and stretching and painting became my chosen mediums to unwind and re-center myself. Though they both sound like relaxing activities, it was extremely difficult for me to carry them out consistently. I still had school and work to worry about and my workload wasn’t getting any lighter, but putting the same amount of effort into resting the same way I did work eventually allowed me to reap the benefits of slowing down. Painting helped me focus on my patience as it forced to pay attention to details, and stretching brought me back to my body in the present moment. These two lessons took me out of my state of panic and helped me do what needed to be done.
Consistent practice in these two activities taught me the lessons I needed in order to survive my hectic schedule. Intentional resting didn’t directly contribute to me achieving my goals, but rather gave me the tools necessary to create systems that would help me achieve my goals. Not only for 2020, but for years to come. The lessons I’ve learned during my time performing intentional rest will help me be productive long term in a less stressful manner.
So what am I saying? Do we all just throw our entire schedules away in the name of ‘intentional rest’? Absolutely not, life goes on with or without us, and we need to be active in our school and work lives in order to reach our desired goals. However, there should be moments where we slow down not just as an act of self care but as a moment of purposeful self-evaluation. A line that falls somewhere in between relaxed self care and back breaking hard work. We need to practice intentional relaxation that is beneficial to both our health and our responsibilities.
Thandi’s other work can be found on the below links: