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Word of The Month: Rest    

Word of The Month: Rest

Art by Erica Gould

By The Local Optimist Team

When it comes to taking care of our mental health, rest is one of the most important tools we have. But in a culture that prioritizes busyness and a no-days-off ethos, it’s become harder for us to actually make time for rest (especially rest that isn’t accompanied by feelings of guilt or anxiety). In an effort to counteract this during one of the busiest seasons, we’ll be focusing on rest in December on TLO – how to re-prioritize it in our lives, get deeper sleep, and resist giving in to toxic hustle culture. To kick things off, we got some of our team members together to chat about their own complicated relationships to rest and what they’re hoping to work on this month, below.

Jessica Schiffer, Managing Editor: This month on The Local Optimist, we’re focusing on something that doesn’t get enough attention during the holiday season: rest. Even though the holidays technically offer us a break from work, they come on the heels of what tends to be one of the busiest seasons, with offices and schools everywhere racing to wrap things up before vacation. This month can also get so busy with social commitments and travel that we find ourselves feeling burnt out rather than rested when January rolls around. 

My December schedule is already giving me anxiety, so I’m trying to find ways to prioritize rest throughout it all, but I struggle with feeling guilty when I do. Hallie and Stephanie, is it easy for you guys to rest or do you find yourself getting caught up in what you “should” be doing instead?

Hallie Sheinbaum, Editorial Coordinator: It honestly depends on the day for me and how many things I have to do. On slower days, I am more prone to recognize how important rest is and why I would benefit a ton from it in that given moment, so then I will take time to rest with ease. But other days when my schedule is a bit more hectic, and I try to rest, I start feeling so overwhelmed by my to-do list to the point that I become restless until I tackle the things I feel like I “should” be doing as you said, Jess. How about you, Steph?

Stephanie White, Office Manager & Executive Assistant: Rest is something I used to apologize for a lot, but now I’m noticing that without the right amount of downtime and peace, I actually sabotage my “on time,” so it’s crucial I make it a priority. I’ve been working on taking time out of my day, even if it’s just 5 minutes, to sit at the beach near my apartment in silence (no phone, nothing). Creating a list at the top of my day (when I’m still fresh) helps me empty my mind out a bit. The less noise I stack up in my brain, the better. It’s all about the purge and reset for me lately. I also just learned how to turn off my slack (to make myself inactive, haha!), which has helped me keep my rest time truly sacred.

JS: I can totally relate to that, Steph – when I haven't gotten enough rest (whether that's literal sleep or just chill time), my productive time is so much less productive; it feels scattered and chaotic instead. I'm what social media would call an extroverted introvert, and being around other people–even if it’s just on Zoom–also physically exhausts me, so I never make back-to-back social plans, and I try to strategically schedule some days without meetings whenever I can. I feel so much more refreshed when I do. Hallie, is there anything you've found that works for you when it comes to making time for rest without feeling guilty?

HS: Wow, I can definitely relate to all of the above. I think I am naturally pretty easy on myself when it comes to making time to rest, which is a blessing. But, something that helps me make time for rest without feeling guilty is actually to schedule time for it. I mostly only feel guilty about taking time to rest when I mistakenly take too much time (that I don’t necessarily have) and start disregarding my other responsibilities. But, if I can actually dedicate time in my schedule to rest, whether it’s an hour or an entire weekend, knowing that my other responsibilities will still be met regardless, then I don’t feel guilty.

SW: I hear that.  For me, sometimes the hardest part is getting others to honor my rest time. I guess it comes down to strong, clear communication and boundaries. Rest can be unnecessarily interrupted by work or by personal life if I don’t make my needs clear. So that’s something I’ve been working on—establishing my boundaries so that I can take care of myself without feeling bad about it or wondering if others think I’m ignoring them, neglecting what I need to do, etc.

It’s crazy because when I get the reset and rest I need, I’m way more positively charged and productive. That’s how I want to live and ultimately how the people in my life want to receive me, so if I can take the time for me, it’s really a win for everyone. 

HS: I so feel that, Steph. This past week honestly just reinforced that for me because I had a bunch of restless nights in a row and was getting much fewer hours of Zzzs (it happens), and I noticed how much of a toll it takes on my productivity and mental health as a whole.

SW: Totally! This weekend was a game-changer because I had a few “late” mornings, and I woke up feeling so much more clear-minded/grounded. When I’m not resting correctly, truly all of my other senses are compromised. I especially lose sight of when I’m hungry, which, when compromised, can interrupt my mental flow for days to follow.

JS: As someone who's been awake since 5 am (and not intentionally) because of restless sleep, I very much feel that. I've always been a super sensitive sleeper and during periods where I'm feeling anxious, it's even worse, which can really set a sluggish/crabby tone for my day. When I need to reset, I cancel social plans and carve out extra time for winding down. Taking CBD also really helps me get to sleep when I can't seem to turn off the anxious thoughts. Hallie, what helps you get back into a good sleep groove?

HS: I’ve been building a whole list of “things to do when I can’t sleep” on my notes app because anxious thoughts at night are something I’m too familiar with.  This week I tried listening to some brown noise (which I like better than white noise) which helped me relax a bit. Something else I have found helpful is to focus on a particular color, and then I allow that color to change and get darker over time until I sink into a navy or black state of relaxation where I can let go of my thoughts and fall asleep.

My #1 thing, though, is getting off my phone. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I turn into a complete doom scroller at night, and it keeps me up. So charging my phone across the room or even in another room is a game-changer for me. I also find that the sleep gummies (a magnesium supplement with melatonin + L-Theanine) from the brand Calm really help me out.  How about you, Steph? 

SW: I love that idea, Hallie! The list-making always helps me. I am the WORST with doom scrolling. This guy who's more of a "life coach" for men (?) – Connor Beaton, I found him through a podcast I listen to and actually really enjoy his stuff – has a rule for the AM: no digital consumption for the first 2 hours after waking up. I was like, wow, that's the goal right there – I feel like consuming IG content and other digital noise right when I wake up creates excess stress in my body and noise in my brain and truly does set the tone for my day. It would be amazing to shift this habit and see how my days, weeks, month change from the adjustment.

JS: Oof, co-sign on the doomscrolling, it sucks and I hate how it's taken away so much of the time I used to spend on other things like reading. But in honor of this convo, I'm going to force myself to truly log off and go do something relaxing after a long day. I loved chatting with you guys about this and I'm excited to see how else we can prioritize rest in our lives this month :)

Keep the conversation going by commenting on this story below. You can also connect with us about whatever’s on your mind by texting The Local Optimist Hotline at 310.299.9414 and subscribing to our bi-monthly newsletter here.