This week, I sprained my calf muscle. It hurt like crazy, it was inconvenient, and I have been unable to do simple things like walk, carry a cup of water, drive, or cook for my family. But like most things in life, this situation was just the wrapper on a much-needed lesson: the necessity of rest.
I overstretched my calf. I felt it, it was uncomfortable, but the pain wasn’t excruciating, so I kept going. I pushed so hard that I overexerted my muscle past its breaking point and ended up hurting myself. The consequence is that now it will take at least two months to get “back to normal,” and that’s only if I am diligent about physical therapy.
Not only have I been upset about the injury, I’ve been disappointed by the fact that I let it happen. It dawned on me that I need to be more diligent about listening to my body for what it needs and recognizing that we all need to rest. Had I paid attention to my body’s messages, I would’ve been smart enough to rest.
But, guess what? Most of us are just not good at resting. We go around saying things like, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” We forget how crucial rest is to remaining healthy and maintaining a balance that will enable us to accomplish what we set out to do. Instead, we’ve been conditioned to equate resting with giving up or being lazy or unproductive. Society has taught us to value ourselves based on productivity. So much so that even a moment of downtime seems irresponsible.
Truth bomb: Rest is essential. It lets us recharge our bodies, heal and refresh. Anyone who exercises or practices a sport knows that resting is just as important as working out. It’s an equal part of the total training process required to build strength, endurance and muscle. However, we fail to recognize this principle in other areas of our lives. We NEED rest: physically, mentally and emotionally. Yet, we lose sight of that way too often.
Even in yoga class, savasana, or final relaxation, tends to be the hardest pose for most students. Why? Because we are conditioned to believe we should always be “doing.” We’ve allowed ourselves to buy into the incorrect perception that resting is just not what successful people do. In reality, being able to stop, even for a moment, empowers us to be more effective and productive. It takes practice, but it is an essential skill.
We must be willing to listen to what our bodies, minds and hearts need at any given moment. If I had not ignored my body’s need to stop, I could have avoided this injury. This led me to the realization that by resting in many other areas of my life when it is needed, I may be more productive, more creative, more effective, or even happier. So while now I will be “forced“ to rest my calf, I’ve learned a crucial lesson that will help me better approach the rest of my life.
I say we start to value rest just a little more. Let’s all make an effort to add rest to our routine, to value taking a timeout and recognizing how much that will do to recharge our batteries. Resting is not giving up. In life, we need to learn to rest, not to quit.
So go ahead, give yourself permission to rest. Take a mental health day off, put your legs up, take a nap, REST. Then, get back at it.