When Rest Isn't Rest

Picture this: Your day has been busy. You’ve responded to emails, spent more time in the car than you wanted, maybe pissed a few people off and put out a few fires along the way. Your head feels busy and fatigue is spreading through your body all the way into your bones. Upon arriving home you just want to crash. What do you do? 

I can tell you what I used to (and sometimes still) do: If the baby was occupied (enough) I’d flop on the couch, flip on the TV and get sucked into the glow of who-knows-what. Sometimes I didn’t even know what I was watching. Or, I didn’t even LIKE what I was watching but I just kept watching because I was too tired to do anything else.

My goal: To check out. Decompress. Unplug by plugging in. 

This was my version of rest.

Over time I noticed that when I got up from the couch I didn’t feel any more rested or checked back in – I usually felt even more tired.

What I didn't realize at the time is that I wasn't actually resting at all. I was numbing.

I was numbing because I didn’t want to pay attention to the busyness in my head. I didn’t want to do another task. I didn’t want to feel so exhausted from a day with my baby.

This became so habitual that even on days when I felt energized I would get sucked into the story on TV and check out. 

And then one day in between flipping channels a question came to mind..

Does this really feel good? 

My answer: Not really. 

Q: So, why are you watching this? 

A: Because I'm too tired to do anything else.

Q: Okay... so what are you trying to feel right now?

A: Rest.

Q: What would feel restful?

A: A hot bath.

I don’t know if I’ve ever stopped what I was doing so quickly go to take a bath. It was wonderful and restful.   

Now – don’t get me wrong - if you were to pop over to our house around 7:30pm you just might find me on the couch watching the Long Island Medium. Occasionally I catch myself watching something that doesn’t feel good and I realize that I’m numbing again. So, I practice checking in with myself before I flip on the TV and while I’m watching. This helps me better recognize when I’m numbing, ask myself a few questions and change course.

I ask myself questions like: 

  • Does it feel good inside my body to watch this? 
  • Is there anything that I'm trying to feel or trying to avoid feeling right now? 
  • Would another activity feel better? 

I also find that my body tells me when it's done watching TV. It shows up as a mild headache, fatigue in my shoulders, disinterest in the show or interest in doing something else.

Here are a few other answers that have felt more restful:

Going outside for a walk.

Reading a book.

Doing a breathing or Intentional Resting exercise.

Sitting outside.

Going to bed. 

Back to my original question: What do you do when you want to crash?

Consider asking yourself what would feel restful right now. If you don't know where to begin, check out my friend Dan Howard’s Intentional Resting page. He shares powerful resting exercises that you can do in a matter of minutes that will help you check in and rest your body and mind.

I'd love to hear from you. Share your response in the comment area below.