Rest is an action
When you have chronic pain, how you apply rest is a hugely important part of your treatment plan. Rest
can be a protective, restorative or even proactive action. Rest does not equal collapse, nor is it the
absence of doing. It does not equal laziness and does not equal giving up or giving in.
If you like metaphors, rest = putting money in the energy bank, or collecting up those spoons, or
changing the oil before the dashboard light goes on.
What stops you from choosing rest?
For many people, it is a subconscious association that rest is indulgent or lazy or somehow of lesser
value than everything else. That choosing rest would mean you are choosing to be less valuable, less
useful, less fill-in-the-blank.
Or maybe you focus solely on getting something done (perhaps also to pre-pain standards), while
ignoring information from your body about the toll of the process.
What are your beliefs about rest? Do those beliefs still work well for you?
A thought-provoking article by Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith (find the TED article here) suggests thinking
about 7 different kinds of rest that we all need:
- Physical (further split into passive, like sleep, and active, like yoga or stretching),
- Mental (rest from the onslaught of thoughts or mental activity),
- Sensory (taking intentional breaks from sensory overload),
- Creative (taking opportunity to allow awe; intentional observation of all kinds of beauty in the
world around us),
- Emotional (breaks from caretaking or pleasing others),
- Social (rest from interactions that exhaust us, or engaging in restorative interactions),
- Spiritual (beautifully put by Dr. Dalton-Smith as taking the opportunity to “connect beyond the
physical and mental and feel a deep sense of belonging, love, acceptance and purpose”.
You might have noticed how each kind of rest involves intention – that means taking a moment to check
in with what information your body and mind are giving you, and using that information to choose your
What kind(s) of rest do you need right now?
A few ideas to experiment with:
- Set a reminder to check in with your body, for just a moment, every hour or two or three. What
do you notice? What are your shoulders doing? What angle is your back at?
- Take a moment to notice your other senses – allow your sense of touch to tell you something
without using your eyes, or listen for the farthest-away sound you can hear.
- Experiment with short breaks at transition times rather than one longer break at day’s end.
- When planning your day, include WHEN you will rest, and WHAT KINDS of rest, as part of that
- You might also find working with Heather, our pain/health coach, to be a great way to sort
through the challenges and build stronger rest practices.