V. Rest Deeply
How is a successful human like a slingshot? Its simple: if we want to shoot far in life, we need to put ourselves under tension, then let go. For most of you reading this, putting yourself under tension is not a problem. You’ve worked hard, taken on lots of responsibilities, and generally said yes to whatever life asks of you. Between your career, family, and that random volunteering gig you agreed to again, your schedule is full. The tension is there!
But what happens when a slingshot gets pulled further and further back without ever being released? Well, it snaps! As paradoxical as it seems, the real key to getting ahead is allowing yourself to let go, to rest deeply.
The “pulling back” is all the work we put in to live a healthy, purposeful life. Lifting weights, doing intentional work, and parenting young kids tensions our slingshot. Even though these are all good things, If we are always pulling the slingshot back and never letting it go, we will never reach our full potential in any area of life. If you keep pulling for long enough, you’re going to break.
Today, we feel an overwhelming pressure to do everything. To be everything to everyone. In order to be “successful”, we need to wake up before dawn to exercise, work a full time job all day, and be a full time parent at night. We need to take our kids to every single activity (will they still get into a good college if they don’t play all the sports and do all the activities???).
When we do “rest” we’re bad at it. Instead of disconnecting from technology and engaging with nature, sleeping deeply, or conversing with loved ones, we sit in front of screens to numb our minds or compare ourselves to others on social media.
First, let’s talk about sleep. In a typical 24 hour period, the human body goes through a complex sequence of hormone cascades also known as a circadian rhythm. Our energy level, sleepiness, hunger, bathroom habits, metabolism, immune system and mental clarity are all the product of delicately metered hormone releases. Whether we submit or rebel against this rhythm will determine much of our potential for health or for disease. We are meant to sleep when it’s dark, wake naturally with the light of dawn and spend time outside each day. If we stay up late watching Netflix or scrolling Facebook, wake up hours before first light to an alarm and spend all day inside, we create a confusing slew of unnatural hormonal changes inside our body.
But rest isn’t just about sleep. We tell our bodies to enter an environment of rest or stress with food, movement, conversations, and how we breathe.
When we eat sugar, grains, vegetable oil, alcohol and a depressingly long list of common food additives, we thrust our bodies into flight or fight mode as they quarrel with the onslaught of incoming toxins. Conversely, when we eat foods which communicate well with our bodies like nutrient dense veggies, healthy fats, and well sourced animal products, we give our bodies the building blocks to repair and regenerate.
When we engage in chronic cardio activities at moderate to high intensities like jogging, cycling classes or intense boot camps we create a taxing stress which can throw us out of rest mode for days. Yet the right exercise in the right amounts can help make us more restful. Strength training, short but intense intervals, and tons of low level movement like walking and hiking create an environment of health within our bodies.
Modern communication technology has the two edged effect of allowing us connection to people all around the world while also tempting us to never unplug our delicate attention and decision capacities. Over consumption of technology has been linked with depression, anxiety, expectations of instant gratification, trouble focusing, a sense of isolation, obesity, neck pain, and even vision loss. The average American takes one week or less of vacation per year. Yet even on vacation, we still check emails and work.
So you’re ready to rest deeply and let the slingshot go?
The first step towards creating a life of rest is to take control of what you can. You can’t control your toddler waking up in the middle of the night but you can create boundaries between work and home. You can’t control the increasing pervasiveness of technology, but you can turn off your phone at 8pm each night to converse with your spouse and read a book. Many of the constraints we foist on ourselves as things we “have to do” are self-imposed. So take a vacation without checking your work email, feel free to say “no thanks” to the obligatory volunteering gig, and don’t feel pressure to commit to the 3rd simultaneous activity for your kid.
When you prioritize rest you’ll allow yourself to be the best version of you in every area of life that’s important. If we want to maximize our potential to love well, to be healthy and fit, to raise kids well, to create meaningful work, and to leave a legacy, we have to let go of the slingshot from time to time. So pull back. Work hard. Exercise. Be intentional. And then let go. Rest deeply. You’ll be amazed at how far you’ll fly forward from this seemingly paradoxical action.
10 "Health and Technology - Digital ...." http://www.digitalresponsibility.org/health-and-technology. Accessed 12 May. 2020.