Resist Busy: Find Your Rest

Sitting in the coffee shop, three women were lamenting about being busy. They compared notes about “this time of year,” with the wrap-up parties, the end of the year activities and the high school exam schedules. They had abandoned the regular housework routines, and the inevitable laundry piles were visible from the front doors. They were in different stages of frantic and anxious. The women consume coffee, swap busy stories, check phones and check phones, again. Not one of them questions the “goodness,” the “rightness” of the busy. None of the women had to work at being busy. Being busy comes naturally. Being busy seems expected.

What is a common phrase heard after the question: How are you doing? We proudly answer…Oh, super busy, actually.…(and then insert the busy list here).

We are a fast-paced, get it done quicker kind of society. We want speedy delivery, faster downloading, direct routes and clear freeways. Burning the candle at both ends is not reserved for late night paper writing in university. Our consumer society promotes any product that works faster or lasts longer. Listen to how we compare notes about “what we have been up to.”

Can you imagine hearing from someone that this morning, they sat on the porch and drank a cup of coffee and then listened to the birds sing until mid afternoon. Our jaws would drop. Someone would probably comment, “Oh, I would love to take a break like that…but I had to go pick up Danny from baseball, and then head over the the community center to teach the art class, and quickly run home to make sure Jenna got herself ready for dance class.”

What if it isn’t a break? What if it is a regular part of what we need to keep us healthy? Do you make time for rest? Look at your calendar, have you made space for rest?

 Busy… But Stressed

The opposite of resting is being active. The risk of being active is becoming stressed. And with stress come complaints of fatigue, forgetfulness, frustration, and lack of patience. Are these symptoms of being busy, or are we ignoring symptoms that negatively affect our mental health? Do you notice when your body tries to tell you it feels stress? I sometimes wonder if we ignore fatigue, and anxiety rather than making the time to take care of ourselves. The Mayo Clinic suggests that if stress symptoms are left unchecked, they can contribute to high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.

Define Your Busy

Know your body. Each of us has a unique capacity, and it is important to know your mental and physical limitations. Understanding how your body signals the need for rest. Be open to making changes when you notice signs of physical or mental fatigue.

Sometimes our “busy” describes how we unintentionally become distracted from the present. Eating while skimming our phones. Driving and talking (handsfree) on the phone. None of these things are inherently bad but do we recognize the toll our busyness or multi-tasking takes on our health. If your body experiences a build up of stress, the symptoms negatively affect your body, mood, and behavior.

Resisting Busy

How do we resist busy? By exercising presence. Be present in what you do.

Take time to eat. Don’t eat and drive or eat and watch TV or eat and nurse a baby. Just eat. Take your bagel and your coffee…sit down and smell the cream cheese, feel the sesame seeds fall from your fingers and breathe in the aromatic dark roast. Enjoy the very moment of one activity at a time.

Practice the present moment. Being present is a lost art competing with so many distractions. Sitting in a coffee shop, it appears like people are present but how many are on their phones, ear buds locked in and loaded, fingers flying across keys…not really aware of themselves in the moment? Lost in thought, but not lost in thought while at rest. Resting thoughts and working thoughts are different practices. Practicing presence while enjoying a coffee might look like this: stopping, sitting back, holding the coffee cup, noticing the weight, the warmth and then the taste…engaging all the senses. Take just a moment.

Lost in thought, but not lost in thought while at rest. Resting thoughts and working thoughts are different practices. Practicing presence while enjoying a coffee might look like this: stopping, sitting back, holding the coffee cup, noticing the weight, the warmth and then the taste…engage all your senses.

Take just a moment.

Self-care and Other Good Habits

Talking to people about self-care, we hear how people have learned to seek out relaxation. Some exercise, practice yoga, walk, listen to music, take leisurely baths. Self-care habits fit into and around an existing schedule. These schedules include serving on school committees, working full time, raising families, making dinners for others, planning parties, going to children’s multiple sporting events. But between 1-2:15 pm, we find the time twice a week to attend a yoga class.

Simply practicing self-care does not guarantee less stress. Believing you deserve to take care of yourself is vital to receiving the most benefit of your self-care habits. Try shifting self-care to a priority, not an afterthought.

Try this experiment

Find a reasonably quiet place in your home, or even in a public place where you are unlikely to be disturbed by someone who knows you. Sit with yourself…only you and the thoughts that wander into your mind. Sit. Breathe. Breathe. Do this for 5 mins. Notice what happens. Just notice. When did it begin to feel like you had sat there forever? When did you feel bored? Guilty for taking the time? Silly or awkward about not “doing” anything? Were you even able to do the 5 mins?

People Pleasers and Other Natural Disasters

A people pleaser puts the needs of others before their own. People pleasers are known as kind and generous? People pleasers are the ones who will get things done because they seem always to say yes, so they get asked to do things for others a lot.

However, they are often left feeling burdened and exhausted? Why? Some individuals have not learned it is ok to say no. When we neglect our needs and cast them aside, we can ignore the signs that we are feeling overwhelmed. At the root of people pleasing may be a sense that we won’t be liked, or appreciated if we don’t take care of others. Or we may feel that we won’t be heard or understood if we assert ourselves and it is easier to do whatever everyone else wants.

Some questions to ask yourself: Can I be ok even if others are disappointed? Do I know the difference between moving with compassion and empathy or responding out of guilt? Do I have a good sense of what is my responsibility and what is not? Do I feel bad when I say no? Am I concerned that if I say no, I will be disliked or criticized? Can I be ok if someone around me is disappointed?

Why Rest?

Learning to rest well benefits your health: You might notice a deeper satisfaction in yourself, a greater sense of contentment, a decrease in anxious thought, better sleep patterns, increased creativity or productivity and more.

The following authors have studied and written books on the benefits of finding rest and how to create more space to rest better and improve your mental health.

Dr. Matthew Edlund writes on the Power of Rest and the benefits of finding physical, emotional, spiritual sources of rest.

Rest: Why you get more done when you work less? by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang takes a look at the benefits of creativity from a practice of resting better. That rest is work’s partner, not the absence of meaningful labour and that to learn to rest well, we will increase both productivity and creativity.

The Power of Rest: How to Stop Doing, Start Being and Soar Through Life, by Tiffany Crosby is meant to challenge readers to slow down, do less, commit to less but all with a deeper appreciation. The book describes how to use rest to improve relationships, becoming more creative.


Is your busy taking over your ability to find rest?
Take a personal inventory and make the time to recharge.
Your body, your mind and your spirit will benefit.

Remember to take good care,

Tracey Dahl, MA, RCC


Individual and couple therapy in Langley, BC


Other Resources:

Mayo Clinic: Stress management

Living a Grace Paced Life in a Burnout Culture, by David Murray.

Tracey Dahl
Tracey Dahl
Registered clinical counsellor (RCC)