As mums, we are notorious for filling our days with stuff that feels essential, that seems important, that must be done (NOW!), and rarely making time to just, rest.
But all that doing of the body often makes the mind a place of chaos and confusion. Of endless mental 'to-do' lists and, 'Oh-shit-I-forgot-to-do' lists. Of emotional anguish, irritability and general feelings, of, 'I’m not doing life very well’ (which may show up something like, 'Why is so-and-so's house always tidier than mine?' or, 'Why can't I seem to make time to do my hair like that?', or 'I hope the neighbour didn't just hear me shout at my kids').
So here are my personal 5 favourite ways to rest your body and your mind so you can stop feeling overwhelmed and start actually enjoying your life.
1) Get more SLEEP! Ok so this is obvious. We all know that sleep is essential. In fact, the US Government Department of Health & Human Services tells us how sleep can help you improve your immunity and mood, maintain a healthy weight, reduce stress and the risk of certain diseases, make better decisions and think more clearly and, my personal favourite, ‘Get along better with people’ (I’m at my most snappy, irritable and angry self when I’ve not had enough sleep> I'm also most likely to eat my weight in biscits and not give a cr*p. Not just me right?).
So, I don’t care how you do it just get more, and/or better, sleep (unless you’re already getting the recommended 7-8 hours a night then skip on over the number 2) to give your body a chance to heal and your mind a chance to be spacious. Need some ideas how, head to this Healthline blog post.
2) Failing that, my second favourite way to rest mind and body is through a daily meditation practice. Obviously if you’re meditating, you’re sitting still (but not slumped, you still have good posture which is important), so you're resting your body.
But more importantly, the benefits of meditation are very similar to those of sleep. And personally, my almost-daily morning meditation practice of just 10-15 minutes, has helped me connect more deeply to myself and let go of my high expectations in a whole new way.
And now I can often find my 4 year old daughter sitting quietly in her room, ‘meditating’ – which also gives my mind a break (for about 30 seconds before she gets bored).
Want to know more? Check out these fascinating ways that meditation changes the brain . And if you need a little help with meditation, download the free Insight Timer app. They also have some great sleep and relaxation tracks.
3) Take a walk in nature. Blah blah blah, you’ve heard it all before. But walking in nature is hugely beneficial for our mental (and physical) wellbeing yet how often do you purposefully, without the kids if possible (otherwise it’s not a rest it’s more of a slightly torturous slow ramble), take a walk in nature? Daily? Weekly even? Ok how about monthly? Come on woman!
While technically not ‘resting’ the body, unless you take a moment to sit on a bench and enjoy the birdsong, walking is beneficial in itself and being surrounded by trees or strolling along the beach allows our blood pressure to drop, our thoughts to become a little more cohesive and our smile to return to our faces. Especially if there's a decent coffee shop along the way.
4) Take a warm bath. YEY to this! Relax your muscles and your mind during a nice long, warm (not too hot) bath. Throw in some epsom salts and light some scented candles for an extra boost to the system.
Baths are, of course, not the best thing for the planet as they use way more water than a short shower but sometimes, needs must (and if the kids get in afterwards then all the better. I don’t recommend it the other way around otherwise you may find yourself bathing in wee and lego).
So make a long soak in a warm bath part of your weekly self-preservation routine.
5) Do a jigsaw. Ok, not as sexy or appealing as a warm bath perhaps but there is actually some evidence that doing jigsaw puzzles helps certain types of learning, short term memory and problem solving.
But for me it’s more about the fact that you simply can not do anything else, like clean the kitchen or write an email, when doing a puzzle. They’re so addictive that if anything, you may have to set yourself a time limit so you don’t become a gibbering wreck in the corner saying, ‘Let me do just one more piece!’ as your family try to pull you away (this has never actually happened to me, yet).
Your body is resting, your mind is on the job at hand and sometimes, random creative thoughts are able to pop up as a result. (Be mindful of your back and shoulders though as you hunch over the puzzle, take a few stretch breaks!).
Jigsaws not your thing? I have it on reliable authority that crochet produces simlar results, as I'm sure any crafty hobby might.
So why the heck is all this rest so important again?
Because you might THINK you should be doing more to help you be healthier and live more sustainably. But that's all just a big societal lie that keeps us all working harder, consuming more and enjoying life less.
The happiest people are not those with a tidy house, neat hair, loads of dosh and a veggie patch, they're the ones chilling out watching us do all the work. (I have no actualy evidence to back this up, but I believe it to be true).
So, while you may want to start exercising more, cooking meals from scratch, looking less like a bag lady at the school gates and using your car less to reduce your carbon footprint; unless you start looking after your mind and body, none of that really matters as it WILL NOT LAST. It is not, in itself, sustainable.
Plus, life is here to be enjoyed. Not every moment of every day. But sometimes, often even. So instead of either being constantly busy or feeling guilty for not being busy, make ‘rest’ something to tick off your daily to-do-list every day knowing that it’s moving you towards a healthier, happier you and maybe even a healthier, happier planet.
Ps need some help with making your health, and that of the planet, a priority? Why not join our health & fitness community of climate-conscious mums, where your mental wellbeing is seen as just as important as anything else.
Wishing you Heaalth and Happiness