“Rest in peace“… it’s a phrase that we all associate with death, burial, the end of life.
But when you actually stop to think about that phrase… why must we wait until the end of our life to rest and be peaceful? Doesn’t that infer that the opposite is true then too? That while we are alive… we are stressed, tired and very much non-peaceful?
Except that is not at all how we were meant to live. Over and over again, God tells us to be peaceful and rest:
–Be still, and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10)
–And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” (Exodus 33:14)
–Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:29)
So, why do so many of us think it’s not okay for us to rest? To take a break, rest our bodies and our souls, particularly on Sunday, the way God intended – “Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest. In plowing time and in harvest you shall rest.” (Exodus 34:21)
Instead, we all hustle and bustle 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Stores and businesses now have Sunday hours and everyone is always go-go-go. I’ve even observed multiple friends “pushing” their way through illnesses or injuries because they learned somewhere along the way that they “shouldn’t” rest.
And they aren’t the only ones. The prevailing notion seems to be that if we DO slow down and rest, that somehow makes us “lazy,” “irresponsible” and “weak.”
But to that my response is… “WHO SAYS?”
Who says that makes you weak or lazy? Maybe it’s your parents’ voices echoing in your head, or a sibling’s. Maybe you grew up in a family where the motto was – you better be doing something or I will GIVE you something to do!
But the reality is, taking time to rest does NOT make you a bad person.
Our bodies and minds were not meant to be run ragged. And rest is essential to our overall health. Whether you do something relaxing like meditation, yoga or stretching, or you simply take time to sit or lie down for 30 minutes. It IS okay to take some time each day to rest.
In fact, it’s better than okay. It’s what we were created to do.
This morning while making my bed, I noticed a phenomenon.
I was having the exact same thought that I had yesterday when I was tucking in my flat sheet.
Literally, at the same moment… as I was straightening the covers in the same place on the same side of the bed, I had the same thought. It wasn’t an important thought, by far. In fact, I already don’t even remember what it was. But it wasn’t what I was thinking that struck me as important anyway. It was the fact that my body was subconsciously repeating a thought just because I was repeating an action.
This is not the only time this has happened either.
I have noticed my mind turning to the same thoughts when I am putting on my make-up or driving down the same road every day to work. Over and over again, my mind will automatically go to the same trains of thought… like a dutiful soldier, repeating the same thoughts (which in turn initiate the same feelings) in order, just like the day before.
I imagine our brains think, “Oh! We’re driving down this road? We’re passing through this neighborhood? Let me consult my records and see what we’re supposed to think about!”
For the most part, this is a harmless phenomenon that most of us probably don’t even realize is taking place.
But the trouble comes in when those thoughts are negative.
If one day, you think “Ugh, I look so old and tired” as you’re brushing your teeth in the bathroom mirror, your brain may automatically try to bring up that file again the next day, whether you actually feel that way or not.
You may realize it (and just mindlessly “agree”) or it may not even consciously register, but suddenly you start feeling sluggish and depressed.
Now, imagine your brain does this two days, three days, five days, one week, three weeks or months in a row.
Pretty soon, those repetitive thoughts are going to turn into a belief. And what was once a “harmless” thought is now one of your foundational truths.
This is why it’s so important for us to pay attention to our thoughts.
Ok, maybe not all 60,000 of them (that we average each day). But as many of them as possible.
It’s said that up to 80% of our thoughts each day are negative. Whether it’s a simple thought like “It’s too hot out here” or a more detrimental thought like “I always screw everything up”… those negative thoughts compound on top of one another all day long, until we’re left feeling stressed, depressed and exhausted.
I don’t know about you… but that is not how I want to spend my days.
I understand that my brain is trying to do its job and run the right “programs,” the only problem is a lot of those programs are faulty.
And the more those programs run, the more messed up my beliefs will get… causing me to have negative emotions like guilt, shame, anger, sadness, fear, worry and depression.
Which in turn, will cause me to behave and live my life differently.
I know we are all busy (which is a whole other topic for another day), but we can’t just mindlessly “tune out” our thoughts, because whether we acknowledge them or not… they are having an effect on us.
We need to be mindful of what thoughts we are letting take hold and when the negative ones pop in, whether for the first time or the hundredth time, we need to actively tell them to get lost.
Whether you replace them with a positive thought/affirmation, imagine them vaporizing into thin air or simply acknowledge them but then politely change the subject, the important thing is that you don’t give them any weight.
Stay aware, stay positive and when your brain tries to slip into auto-pilot mode… tell it, “Thank you very much, but I got it from here.”
If I told you there was one thing that stood out among everything I’ve done in the last three years to improve my health… one thing that I think everyone should do to improve their health… one thing that I will be doing for the rest of my life to keep myself physically and emotionally healthy…
What do you think it would be?
A certain exercise pose?
A magic pill?
A wondrous “superfood”?
Actually, it’s none of the above.
Now before you go envisioning a monk sitting on a cliff with his hands perched on his crossed legs, saying “Ohmmm”… that’s not what I’m talking about.
What I am talking about is giving your body a BREAK. Intentionally quieting your mind for a period of time every day. Because, think about it… if you didn’t intentionally set out to do this, when exactly would your mind get a chance to be quiet?
While you’re surfing Facebook? Binge-watching Netflix? Or perhaps when you lay down to go to sleep? Oh no, that’s right… that IS the first time your brain has had a break from all of the stimulation of the day, so that’s when it starts trying to process everything it can think of!
Bet you never thought about that, huh? You probably just figured you had a “medical issue” that required an over the counter medication like Nyquil, or maybe even a prescription pill like Ambien. That ought to shut off that brain, right!? But in actuality, your brain is just doing its job… you just made it wait until the very end of the day to be able to do said job.
If you go through your day constantly bombarding yourself with outside stimuli… coffee, television, traffic, billboards, coworkers, meetings, computer programs, documents, radio, children, spouses, social media, videos, more television and then… bed… when else do you expect your brain to try to process everything you shoved in it that day?
The point is… your brain needs a chance to rest and recharge. Every day.
And I’m not talking about just from the daily wear and tear. I’m talking about the ‘BIG’ things… the things that profoundly affect us… illness, death, abuse, betrayal, trauma, abandonment. The things that we THINK we’ve dealt with… or more likely, just covered up with a pill.
You have even one of those types of events in your life (much less multiple) and your body will start storing away emotions that were never properly dealt with. And those emotions left to fester long enough, will soon manifest themselves as physical symptoms.
The word “disease” after all is broken down into “dis-ease.” That means when your body is in a state of dis-ease, something is causing it to be inflamed or upset. Be it anger, shame, guilt, worry, fear or regret. Or more likely, a big twisted combination of several of them.
When these types of emotions aren’t dealt with properly, they can literally cause you to start feeling physical symptoms like insomnia, headaches, digestive issues, back pain, dizziness and even more serious conditions like heart disease and cancer.
That is why it is SO important to address your emotional health too… not just when you’re sick, but before illness ever happens.
Taking time to quiet your mind every day, will give your body a chance to relax and recharge. It allows your breathing to slow down, your heart to beat slower and your mind to stop racing. And more importantly, it gives you the opportunity to actively let go of things that have been weighing you down – whether consciously or not.
How exactly you do it is up to you. I personally use a combination of various visualization exercises that allow me to “release” old issues, beliefs, events and emotions up to God. Other people find guided meditations useful or some simply like to sit in silence or listen to soft music.
But if your life resembles anything like this (as it does for most people in America these days)…
Then you need to take a moment to calm your mind, calm your body and calm your spirit.
Believe me, your body will thank you.
You’re stuck in traffic.
You stub your toe on the coffee table.
You can’t find your keys and you’re running late.
When these little irritants happen to you… how do you react?
Do you maintain your composure and remain level-headed? Or do you immediately fly off the handle? Red face, breathing heavy, throwing things while colorful words fly out of your mouth?
Don’t worry, I’m not going to judge you if you fall into the latter category. But I do want to warn you that it might be the sign of something bigger going on inside – both physically and emotionally.
When I was in the thick of adrenal fatigue, I had ZERO tolerance for stress. Basically, my “flight or fight” response had gotten so blown out, that it had NO juice left for actual (or perceived) stressors.
If my dog took too long to go to the bathroom outside, I’d feel like I was going to lose my mind. If I was running late, I felt like I was going to have a heart attack before I got there. If I couldn’t find something I needed, I’d get MAD. Immediately. There was no warning or “ramping up.”
But that’s because my body was running on overload.
It had been too stressed for too long and it wasn’t getting enough of the things it needed – like restful sleep, proper nutrition, quiet time and meditation. So my energy stores that I needed to deal properly with the stress were empty. And the littlest thing would send me into flip-out mode.
So, what about you?
Have you been running on coffee and energy drinks for too long? Masking the non-stop stress and pushing your body past its limits?
Or maybe you feel like you do eat well and get enough sleep, but you have emotional baggage that you’ve been “shoving down” for years – family issues, relationship issues, problems with self-esteem, lack of motivation or loneliness. Surely, those feelings can’t have anything to do with how quickly you get angry, right?
Oh, yes they can.
When you take strong emotions like grief, worthlessness, loneliness, betrayal, rejection and abuse and continue to bury them inside without properly addressing them, they start to build up like a volcano. And what happens when you poke at a live volcano? It might just erupt.
But this isn’t how God meant for us to live.
In fact, Proverbs 16:32 says, “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.” And James 1:19, says, “This you know, my beloved brethren, but everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.”
That’s because anger is not a sign of strength and power. It’s actually the opposite. Anger is always the result of another emotion beneath it – be it sadness, fear, rejection or something else. But when you are unable to deal properly with that underlying emotion, anger is what results.
But to be like Christ and live as God intended, we should be slow to anger, patient and even-keeled.
Sure, that may sound easier said then done. But it all comes back to surrendering it to God.
He doesn’t want you trying to carry the heavy burdens – “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28). He wants you to lay them at His feet, so He can bear the burden for you.
But you have to take the time to hand them over to Him.
Make your emotional and spiritual health a priority in your life – spending time in prayer, meditating and resting. Dealing with your emotions instead of just ignoring them.
And take care of your physical health by getting proper rest and eating clean food. And then watch what happens…
Your “hair trigger” might just stop being so trigger happy.