I walk the “being versus doing” tightrope daily.
My morning routine usually begins with silence and stillness. Most days, I’m off to a steady, sure start.
Then the doing sets in.
Children awake and the dishes and laundry beckon. Our seven-year-old begins asking questions faster than I can count (sorry, I don’t know what cashews grow on, please just eat your snack). Strawberry Nerds soon lay scattered across the living room carpet. And our preschooler has somehow gotten into the makeup again (drawing dalmatian spots on her arms with eyeliner this time).
Before I know it, I’ve made a solid switch from mindfully “being” to full-on “doing” mode.
Recognizing the shift, I recoil. If I continue in “doing” mode my steps will soon feel off-balance, and I’ll end the day overwhelmed, searching for my safety net.
See, we were never made to live in constant motion, yet so many of us live as though we were. Our society values productivity so we default to doing.
While we’re busy automatically jumping from one task to the next, we forget the mode in which we operate is our choice. And, that often, one of the most productive things we can do is… rest.
Sounds countercultural, doesn’t it?
But choosing rest is vital.
Resting reestablishes “being” and makes your next action more intentional.
When you miss “being” you miss out on your life. You lose touch with your authentic self, and soon, you spend life skimming the surface, conquering “to-do’s” instead of living a deep life, full of what makes you come alive.
We need to give ourselves permission to step back from the pace promoted by our culture and create space to live in line with our truest selves.
Simply put, we need to prioritize rest.
Here are 4 ways to slow down and regain presence by integrating rest into your life:
1. Implement a “Do Nothing” Day
Life is tiring. We need a day that allows our souls to catch up with our bodies. A “do nothing” day does just that.
Designate one day a week for rest and recreation. Hide your phone, clear your schedule, and then rest in whatever way you find is life-giving. This day should refresh you. Don’t let busyness creep in and begin knocking out a bunch of tasks. Research shows people who religiously took one day off a week to rest lived ten years longer than the average American.
Take this rest day a step further and make it a no-spend day. John Mark Comer, in his book The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, says a day of rest is “an insurgency and insurrection against the ‘isms’ of the Western world—globalism, capitalism, materialism,” if we do nothing “commerce-related” that day.
“Taking a day off is a way to say ‘enough.’” Comer says, “It’s a way to prove that we have more than enough to enjoy a rich and satisfying life without buying more.
Instead drink deeply from the well of ordinary life: a meal with friends, time with family, a walk by a lake, afternoon tea. Slow down long enough to reconnect with yourself and those around you. You might find ordinary life is enough.”
2. Prioritize Sleep
A good night’s sleep can determine if we live our days on purpose or on autopilot. It can predict whether we will raise our voices at our kids when frustrated or respond calmly. It can strengthen our ability to focus on what matters instead of being distracted by countless trivial “to-do’s.”
Yet, we often underestimate sleep’s importance. So we sacrifice it. We squeeze in just one more “urgent” thing from our “to-do” list after the kids are in bed, we scroll social media, we catch up on texts or emails, we watch Netflix.
Sleep needs to be prepared for and prioritized. Studies show that the hour before we go to bed needs to be low-tech. Falling asleep three minutes after you get done scrolling social media is a recipe for a bad night’s sleep. Your mind simply isn’t calm enough yet to transition into restorative rest.
Experiment with putting your phone away sooner in the evening. Charge it outside of the bedroom and use an alarm clock and book light instead.
Practice gratitude before you fall asleep. This increases your heart rate variability (HRV) level. The higher your HRV, the less likely your nervous system will default to fight or flight mode and the more likely you’ll spend the next day in a calmer, collected state.
3. Sit in Silence
Four hundred years ago, Blaise Pascal said, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”
If time in silence was a game-changer then, it’s even more vital now. Without spending a certain amount of time in silence each day, we really can’t flourish as human beings. We were not made to be “on” all the time. We need time to step back, to reflect, and to evaluate how our day—and our lives—are going. Time in silence is often when our biggest ideas and solutions are born. It’s when we reconnect with our truest selves and with the one who made us.
Challenge yourself to sit alone for 15 minutes in silence without any stimuli. If you’re new to this practice, it will be uncomfortable at first. Keep practicing, and once you can do it daily, you’ll find you won’t be able to live without it.
4. Practice Pausing
When we’re constantly in “doing” mode, we miss the beauty of the moment, barreling through life with a “what’s next?” mindset. Reestablish mindfulness with scheduled rest breaks.
Set an alarm on your phone for the times you’d like to pause and reset. For me, 10am, noon, 3pm, and right before dinner work well. During these times, take 5-10 minutes to: practice deep breathing, write down three things you’re grateful for, take a power nap, walk in the sunshine, sip tea or whatever drink you love, read a few pages of a good book, pray, mindfully observe your surroundings, put your hand on your heart and listen, or use a grounding essential oil.
These pauses change the pace of your day, shifting your mindset back into “being” mode and allowing your next action to be more intentional.
Author Morgan Harper Nichols said, “You are worth the quiet moment. You are worth the deeper breath. You are worth the time it takes to slow down, be still, and rest.”
Do you agree? Are you worth the time it takes to pause, recharge, and rest?
Integrate rest into your daily rhythm. Your life will be more full of wonder, purpose, and presence for it.
About the Author: Julia Ubbenga is a freelance journalist whose teaching on minimalism, simplicity, and intentional living has reached thousands of people worldwide through her blog www.richinwhatmatters.com. Julia practices what she preaches in her Kansas City apartment home with her husband and two extremely lively young daughters.