Rest is not a reward.

A reflection by Eleana-Jayne; Clinical Administrative Officer.

I wonder if you’ve ever been like me and told yourself, “I’ll just get this done and then I’ll rest.” For most of us that sentence usually ends in skipping lunch breaks, 4am bedtimes and 3 minutes with a cup of coffee before getting ‘back to it.’ Sound familiar?

There are pressures on all of us every day that can make us feel trapped; providing for our kids, tough projects at work, difficult relatives, that friend who always seems to need you, exams, and somehow tying to find the time to sit down and breathe in-between it all.

This has been me for many years. I was addicted to the societal lie of ‘busyness.’ Society perpetuates this lie that being ‘busy’ equals being ‘important’ or ‘worthy’ as a person. Think of all the TV shows that show us characters who are ‘bossing it’ with their work success, gym routine, flawless grooming, and fully stocked fridge for their kids to snack on anytime. Or maybe it’s the Facebook adverts that keep showing you new ‘life hacks’ to double your productivity, or those YouTube influencers who somehow seem to have an answer for everything, and get more done before 8am than I do in a week!

The lie of ‘busy = important’ had been paralysing me with fear and anxiety for many years. I would stay up late to complete something work or home related, get up late as a result, which meant skipping breakfast, having to buy a lunch I couldn’t afford as I forgot to pack one, and working through my break to keep on target before going home and continuing the cycle.

If there was ever a time I had a spare 10 minutes or a free evening, I would panic and immediately start to think of which task on my ‘To Do’ list could fill those 10 minutes, otherwise I would be ‘wasting time’; or I would call up my friends thinking I must arrange something for that free evening because if I stayed in I was ‘lazy’ or ‘antisocial’ or just plain ‘boring.’

So, what happened to me? I burned out. I began to have a complicated relationship with food because I wasn’t making time to sit down and eat. I was becoming irritable and finding my emotions were all over the place as I hadn’t slept properly for months. I was becoming anxious at social gatherings because I felt the need to be ‘fun’ when inside I just wanted to put my life on pause, for everything to stop, but the problem was, I was the one pressing play all the time because I believed the lie that rest was my reward for achieving things.

But rest is not a reward. Rest is a fundamental human need, and we should treat it as such.

So what’s the solution? Well, I’m not an expert but I know that the phrase ‘no thank you’ was magic for me. We can’t say ‘no’ to all of our responsibilities, but we can say ‘no thank you’ to that friend’s birthday meal that’s just a bit too expensive at the moment, or to that job promotion that will mean a far heavier workload that we can’t really handle right now if we actually want to see our family. I know, radical right? We need to do what is right for us, what we can cope with, and that can mean saying ‘no thank you’, why?

Because rest is not a reward. Rest is a fundamental human need, and we should treat it as such.

I had every excuse in the book; “If I don’t do it no one else will”, “It won’t take too long to complete”, “If I say no my boss will think I can’t handle the pressure”, “If I don’t go to that thing, everyone will think I’m rude or that I hate them.” Sound familiar? But the truth is…

Feelings are not facts.

We may feel afraid to rest because of excuses like mine, or we may secretly feel proud of our busyness and believe that the world will stop turning without us, but I assure you, it won’t.

So, if you’ve ever felt like I did (and sometimes still do), let’s think about the areas where we could be brave and try a ‘no thank you’ and take some time for ourselves instead. You are only human, and rest does not make you any less important as a person, why?

Because rest is not your reward.