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"Rest when you're dead"

(this you?)

Right around this time of year I find myself having a lot of conversations about REST.

People are busy. People are tired. It's cold and gloomy outside, and all you want to really do is curl up at home... but you don't have time.

Just recently I was speaking with a patient who expressed to me that they felt they "rested too much," and I know exactly what they meant - we've all had those days spent on our couches and beds with just our jammies and our screens, and those can absolutely be fun days! But, we also all know that's not how we're "supposed" to spend our time.

We all live in fairly fast-paced, production-driven, socially-complex culture that tends to keep us running around for one reason or another most of the time. Get up, get the kids up, go to work, go to the store, go to an appointment, go Christmas shopping, pick up the kids, make dinner, clean the kitchen, throw in the laundry, check the kids' homework, get the kids to bed (whew!), and do it all again tomorrow. And then my patients come to me to hear me say they need to be exercising and going for walks and taking time for themselves? Ain't nobody got time for that!

We could talk all day about where this message comes from, but what I know for sure is that I hear the same thing from everyone I work with: we feel guilty for taking time for ourselves. We all have so many people expecting us to spend our time and energy in whatever specific ways they think we should, and we are all absolutely programmed to want to keep our immediate social connections happy with our behavior. We try to keep everyone around us happy, yet meanwhile we are quietly drowning inside ourselves.

I took these photos the other day while I was out on a short solo hike on Buffalo Mountain. (Walking in nature by myself may not look like a very "restful" activity, but for me it's one of my very favorite ways to restore my body and reset my nervous system.) It was clear and cold, and the only thing I could hear was the rushing of the stream and the squish of mud and moss under my boots. I made it to the top of the ridge and stopped to catch my breath and enjoy the view for a few minutes. As I stood panting, I realized: I can't hear anything other than myself. No chirping birds, no rustling of squirrels, nothing. It was so quiet I could hear the blood in my veins and the air in my lungs.

Do you know why?

Because the animals are all resting. They are all cozied up in their dens, conserving energy and body heat, just biding their time for a few more weeks until the winter solstice passes and the days start getting longer again. Because that's what makes sense to do this time of year.

Now then, I know: I know you are all very busy, and you have things to do and places to be. I know there's some of that you just really can't do much about. But just in case you need to hear this: You're allowed to rest. You're allowed to say to "no" to things. You're even allowed to change your plans. You're allowed to sleep in, and you're allowed to take a day off if you need it (I'll write you a doctor's note if you want). You're allowed to take time for yourself. Not only are you allowed - you must. Because if you don't take time for your wellness, you will eventually be forced to make time for your illness.

And if anyone has anything to say about it, tell them to give me a call.

Sending the very best and warmest wishes to everyone this season -

- Christina

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