27 September 2015

The Need for Rest

In our ever speeding society, the importance of rest seems to be forgotten more and more. Search "sleep" on TED and you'll find numerous pieces of evidence of the importance of this daily rest, and as many proofs that we are not sleeping enough. But rest isn't only about that. It's about slowing down sometimes, finding time to reflect, look at our own lives, spend time with our loved ones, or simply do nothing and gain a new sense of purpose and meaning.

It was a Christmas holiday, when I realized I didn't want to continue med school after all and gathered the courage to tell my father, who was paying the tuition fees. It was during these months of rest that same year, punctuated by student jobs, waiting for the following school year, that I decided to join Languages major, specialty Japanese, and to work my way into an exchange year in Tokyo.

Fast forward seven years, it was during a special two week holidays, granted by my company where I was a trainee, that I went to my family home and made the decision to simplify my life. It was also during one of these simple and resourcing holidays with my family that I started to reflect upon my life as a whole, beyond closet size and waste reduction matters. This year, it was during a short holiday in the south of France that I decided that my career wasn't limited to my job, and that I could very well be a writer while being a PR manager at my firm. Personal projects aren't incompatible with desk jobs, I decided while sipping Provence rosé by the swimming pool.

Don't worry, you needn't a pool to get good rest. What these life examples tell me, is that beyond a good night sleep and resourcing week-ends, we need rest. Real rest. Why are there sundays and fasts and retreats and such in most religions and philosphies? Because we need to unplug sometimes. From the hassles of daily life, from the stress of work or studies, from the energy draining daily life that keeps us from connecting with ourselves and others.

But, where older religions and philosophies made a point of it, our modern society of productivity and "time is money" and busiest is best tends to make us forget the benefits of rest. A long walk under the golden Autumn sun. A week-end with family members and good food. A week with no appointments or tasks to complete. Who knows what you'll get out of this? More energy, for sure. New questions about your life and purpose, maybe, maybe not. In none of these examples above did I go on holidays for the purpose of self introspection. It just happened as things slowed down around me, as my brain awoke from the energy draining every day life and decided to write a Space Opera.

Of course, summer and its public holidays and slower weeks are a good moment to slow down and take some rest. But what about the colder season? As days grow shorter and energy becomes scarcer, perhaps it is time to slow down, take some rest, and see what happens.


  1. This post really spoke to me - I was reading it on the way home from yet another day at work, and it's true, I haven't had the time to pause and give myself the room to set new goals and a sense of purpose. i've been feeling simultaneously restless and exhausted, and the holidays I've taken this year have felt too "action-packed" for me to feel like it's a real break.

    It's so fantastic that you've set for yourself writing as a goal - I feel like writing for a living has kind of killed some of the joy I derived from it when I was merely writing to amuse myself.

    1. I hope your next holiday can be more restful then, though I will say I admire your epic hikes and mountain climbs!

    2. It's true that we can even forget to take some rest, when life happens at such a fast pace! From the pictures you posted, your holidays seemed absolutely fantastic though :)

      It's an interesting point you mention about writing, and I guess that's why I don't set myself the goal of writing for a living (well that, and the fact that less than 1% of writers actually live from their activity). I feel like when there is an obligation, a financial stress behind the activity, it may influence the creativity and pleasure from creative writing. I think I'd much rather keep that as a healthy source of mental growth.

  2. I have been thinking about the concept of rest a lot too of late. Probably because my life has been busy at work as well as at home (moving will do that to a person, as you well know), and it’s turning up the stress levels.
    I’m finding it especially hard to define rest. One condition is obvious: you are not expected (by your boss or by a personal friend, partner or relative) to do something right away, like prepare a memo or do the dishes. But even when I’m ‘at leisure’, I feel that not every occupation is equally restful. On top of that, not every occupation is restful at all times! E.g. I enjoy cooking. But when I’m having a busy weekend, having to schedule two hours to make that slow-cooked lasagna can give me extra stress, even though I planned that as an enjoyable activity.
    When I apply mindfulness to this problem, I think it has to do with the difference between being and doing. If I’m chasing things to cross of my list, even if they are enjoyable things, I’m not resting. But if I manage to stop, take a deep breath, and be in the moment, I am resting. Some activities are more encouraging to ‘being’, like a nature walk (or sipping wine by a pool!) whereas with others, like cooking, it takes a conscious change of perspective (because there is still a goal to be reached, if you understand what I mean). But that remains hard for me. I often feel pressured to plan and ‘do’ enjoyable things to offset the stress from my job, instead of just taking the time to look at my backyard, sip a cup of tea, and BE.

    1. Rest is indeed difficult to define, and to find! I agree that there is something about "being" instead of "doing" in the restful moments. Perhaps that's also why truly restful and inspiring moments of my life were long holidays, usually with my family when there is no pressure to visit things and make the most of an exotic location. In our world, simply having "nothing to do" is a rarity. What I mean by that is waking up in the morning knowing you can do whatever you want with your day, no laundry, cooking, meetings, exhibit tickets or anything. It relieves a special kind of pressure that opens the mind to all sorts of thoughts, I find.