Resting is Easier Than We Think
By Deborah Blackwell
“Hey, whatcha doing?” always brings this answer from my 20-something middle child.
“I’m just chillin’.”
“Define chillin’,” I say, assuming it means something different each time.
“You know, playing video games, making music (he is a DJ on the side), just chillin’.”
It took some time before I understood that the word chillin’ is the Millennial version of rest.
That was a bit surprising, my generation grew up thinking rest means to lie down, sleep, or drink some tea in a semi-reclined position on the couch. And it does, sort of. Rest can be inactivity as a way to restore strength. But real rest is more than that.
I only learned recently that rest is not just about the body, it’s also about the mind.
I don’t understand how playing video games—especially the popular more violent ones—can be peaceful and calm. But my kid would tell you his focus is on doing something he loves. He puts himself into an invisible bubble, keeping whatever is outside of him at arm’s length.
Rest is the ability to feel peace and calm in our headspace, no matter what is going on around us.
For some of us, that takes effort. We might feel uncomfortable tuning out the world around us. Maybe it feels boring, or worse, like pressure. We tell ourselves we can rest later, when we finish doing whatever it is we need to do.
Or, we might think we are resting while we sleep. But we train our nervous systems. When we can’t wind down while we’re awake, our bodies will stay in that state of being “on”, even when we sleep.
Turning down our mental chatter is the key.
If our minds don’t quiet, our bodies can’t rest. So how can we take resting to a whole new level?
First, we can s l o w d o w n. I used to groan about my son’s and husband’s pace. They walk slow, eat slow, move as if in slow-motion. But when we slow down our body, our mind follows.
Worry less, accept more. Fretting about the little things uses up a lot of physical energy and brain space. There’s an old saying, “It is what it is,” and it’s true. Trust that life works itself out, because it always does.
Mind your breath. Although breathing comes naturally, sometimes we forget to do the one thing that keeps us alive. Inhale, exhale, and notice. When we pay attention to our breathing, it slows down, and we shift our nervous system to a more restful state.
Smile. Did you know the act of smiling automatically soothes our soul? It releases endorphins, and when we feel better, we reduce our stress. When we reduce our stress, we rest.
I finally realized what my son is doing when he’s chillin’. He’s focusing on himself. This may be the single, most important thing to consider here. The simple act of connecting to ourselves—however feels the best—is rest.
Sometimes I lie flat on my back on the floor, and I listen for the quiet swish of my cat’s soft paws brushing the carpet as she comes over to see why I’m down at her level. Then I listen to her purring as she sits next to my head. For a minute or two, nothing else matters.
Rest doesn’t always mean stopping, it’s more about being at peace.
And if that means playing a game … then by all means, just chill.