Why do we fill our lives with endless activity which doesn’t actually matter in the end?
Who are we trying to please and what are we actually trying to do?
Why do we sacrifice our health and our best years at the altar of work and not chase after our own dreams and found passions?
And in all of this, do we even rest?
These were the thoughts that dominated my mind during my forced time off over the summer of 2017–2018.
In late November 2017, I traumatically ruptured my biceps tendon, requiring surgery, time off work, intense rehabilitation but most of all, rest.
Although I had built rest into my life after being burnt out and listless in medicine, this time off truly made me think about the quality of rest in our lives.
Our busy and distracted world
A busy life is not a productive life and represents a person who is reacting to the world rather than thoughtfully responding.
A busy life is distracting to the mind, detrimental to our body and eternally destructive to our soul.
One question that we must all ask is:
“Do we truly rest OR are our days and weeks FULL of activity with minimal thought for our own self-care?”
If we are to live more meaningful and productive lives, we NEED to build rest into our days.
In examining my own life a few years ago, I realised that I was cramming an increasing amount activity into my weekly allotment of 168 hours and using times destined for rest, to catch up and to prevent from falling behind, these times namely being the weekend and the rare moments that I had off during the week.
But in reality, I was failing ahead.
Although I may have been “ahead” in earning more money and completing more projects, I was exhausted, anxious and unhappy, I was “failing”.
Rest is useless if it is crammed between tight deadlines and packed schedules or if it causes delay and non-attendance in crucial business and personal dealings.
If we are not careful, we can be swept up into the world’s obsession with being “busy getting ahead”.
The current lifestyle trend and word for this on social media is “hustle”.
The world of investment property, early retirement (FIRE movement), share portfolios, hustling on your own side gig, exclusive schools, “keeping up with the Jones’s”, obtaining your dream job or simply serving the needs of everyone else around you, can all be “busy” distractions to you being able to find true rest.
The purpose of finding rest is being able to use your most precious commodity – time, more intentionally towards uncovering and pursuing your mission, with a mind, body and heart that isn’t depleted and addicted to busyness and distraction.
With that thought, these are a few of the areas of busyness that I realised that I was struggling with:
Our connectedness to email and digital platforms has made it possible to “work from anywhere”.
We are also reachable on various online platforms and been conditioned through our use of social media, to silently become addicted to the pleasurable flow of dopamine as we scroll, like or connect through the numerous applications on our phone, tablet or computer.
“Busy” at work
There are so many projects that I can pursue!
But the one thing that I have learnt as I’ve grown, published and become more experienced, is that a leader needs to learn how to say “no”.
This isn’t out of pride or superiority but as Greg McKeown notes in his book Essentialism, being able to focus on those core areas that align with your personal philosophy, experience and interests, allow you to produce better work!
Taking this further, if we are part of a family unit or parents, there are a myriad of activities that may appear beneficial to ourselves and our children, but they are not always the best use of our time.
Do our kids really need multiple after-school activities?
Do we really need to be on that committee to show that we are involved?
Do I really need to work extra to fund that holiday, to take that Instagram shot in front of that infinity pool?
Do I really enjoy working for in this role when my passion lies elsewhere?
When do we stop, rest and play as a family?
The only way to find rest within our busy world is to challenge our assumptions and mental conditioning by asking these important questions.
The secret to rest
As I’ve studied, experimented and started to actively live a more restful life, I’ve had this powerful thought:
“The extent to which you rest and care for yourself, is directly related to the meaning that your life has, the impact that you will make and energy and enthusiasm that you will bring into every room”
The secret to finding rest is firstly recognising its importance in how it replenishes your most essential energy stores – physical, psychological, spiritual and emotional.
These four stores of energy are your life force, your being and your presence in the world.
Each morning, I am intentional about filling my energy stores.
By getting up early and being in silence, reading, praying and meditating, I replenish my spiritual, psychological and emotional energy.
This is my daily anchor of rest.
Then in my home gym, lifting weights, killing myself with burpees and the AirBike and singing along badly to praise music, doesn’t simply help to replenish my physical energy, but I love being alone and working out, it helps to replenish my emotional and psychological wellbeing and energy.
It may seem strange, but some of my most profound thoughts and breakthroughs and moments with God have been in my home gym.
Furthermore, as a doctor, I understand that strengthening my heart through exercise allows blood, rich with oxygen to more efficiently circulate through my body, especially my brain. This allows for clearer thought, a wealth of wonderful natural hormones and fertile ground for big ideas!
This is my unique blueprint of rest and it is different for everyone!
But if we are not intentional about replenishing these sources of energy EVERY DAY in some small manner, we will feel increasingly depleted and tired.
Secondly, finding rest is the process defining your personal philosophy (the why and purpose of your existence) and the values that you ascribe to.
If this sounds far-out and way too deep in an article about rest, then I would counter with this thought –
If you aren’t clear about who you are, what you stand for and the steps you are taking to achieve this, your time is likely to be used, taken and wasted, helping others achieve their dreams and being swept up in unimportant tasks.
It’s definitely not wrong to give your time intentionally to others, but not at the expense of your rest and dreams – your purpose, the reason that you are here on earth.
With great respect and without boast, this is my personal philosophy:
“To solve problems and to help relieve suffering”.
Therefore, almost everything that I do in my life, is orientated around this thought.
Arriving at this succinct but powerful perspective took many years and every opportunity that I am presented with now is filtered through this lens.
It is no surprise that with God’s guidance and walking through the open doors in my life, I’ve arrived at the unique combination of working as a Palliative Care GP and Anaesthetist, who serves in governance as a board director.
I am shameless about taking one day off a week and several weeks off a year to replenish myself to be able to do work that achieves this purpose.
Thirdly, the secret to rest is decisive and experimental action.
Try and do something!
This involves an element of self-reflection, practice and the courage to start building rest into your life.
I believe it starts by doing these three things:
- Ruthless editing of your schedule
- Learning the art of saying “yes” to events, opportunities and work that align with your philosophy and “no” to everything else!
- Building a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly routine of intentional rest and self-care to help you bring your best to the world.
Our struggle with rest
As I’ve delivered this message over the last few years to nurses, doctors and aged care and mental health professionals, the reception has been unbelievable!
But the execution and practical implications have been mixed.
Whilst we all agree that rest is essential, many aren’t able to (due to socioeconomic factors) or aren’t willing to (possibly due to the perception of being lazy) and finally, the largest group I believe, haven’t tested the goodness of regular religious rest and are therefore sceptical.
Before I progress, I want to make note that there are many countries in the world where the 7 day work week is essential for survival. Being able to carve out time to be still, to play and connect with loved ones may be possible, but differently orientated and prioritised within a schedule.
Regular religious rest is something that I evangelise widely.
This is because it was completely foreign to me when I started. To take one day completely off during the week, to go off-line, to disconnect from devices and email and to simply spend the whole day reading, playing with Kylie and the boys, eating great food and watching my favourite shows (and of course doing a few chores and not simply being a lump!).
However, this one day – Saturday, has become my anchor and the reason for my productivity, progress and peaceful happiness.
Not only is Saturday my anchor, it has helped me to practice editing my life to keep it free and also saying “no” to many activities and “work that needs to be done”.
On Saturday, I connect with God, take time to breathe deeply and experience prescence and play. That’s it.
As a doctor, rest has been one of the hardest lessons of all to learn. But learning to slow down so that I can speed up and work at the zenith of my experience, energy and ability has become the way of my clinical life.
This has definitely come at the expense of “getting ahead” but being able to pursue work that excites me on Monday morning, allows me to write, speak and create is a life worth living.
I’m so grateful!
With that thought, I’d like you to think about how pervasive chronic lifestyle tiredness is.
How common is it to hear about “tiredness” from your spouse, your friends, online and in passing conversations?
Then, think about how uncommon is it to hear these phrases about rest in our world today and how strange would it be to you if you met someone like this?
Would you recoil in disgust at his “show-off” or be curious to know more, if you heard these statements?
“I feel really fresh and well rested”
“I feel great”
“I have time for myself most days to rest, breathe, exercise and be thankful”
“I have energy”
“I said “no”, it took time away from me and my family”
“I have space”
Why do feel that we need to rest only when we are pushed to our limits or when we are nearing empty?
Ways that we can achieve more rest
Achieving real rest isn’t a dream.
Would you believe on my busiest days — 24hour Anaesthetic on-calls, I will always try to intentionally eat lunch outside, take 5 to meditate and always begin the day with my anchoring morning routine.
This is because building rest into your daily life enables you to “respond” to your day, well replenished and focussed, rather than “reacting” to everything occurs to you.
If you are living in a Western democracy, with peace in your country, work to enable economic prosperity and air in your hopefully healthy lungs, then I would say you have time to intentionally rest by examining your priorities and purpose.
‘’Respond, not react’’
Can I please share with you a few thoughts about rest and how it can be achieved in your life?
These are short intentionally because they form the basis of an eBook that I’ve been trying to write for nearly a year now! So please excuse the brevity.
Thou shall rest
To create rest in your life, understand that everyone has their own unique blueprint.
My wife loves baths as this replenishes her emotionally, psychologically and spiritually, as I’m that sure that I’ve seen her reading her Bible and praying in the bath too!
However, for me, creating space in the morning for silence is one of my daily restful and replenishing activities.
Rest is unique, so here are a few suggestions to get you thinking
- Schedule rest into your days, weeks, months and year. Expectation boosts dopamine and drives us forward.
- Find margin in your day, these are small pockets of time not be wasted but to be used to replenish your energy stores. (Mine is the morning and having lunch
outside in the sun and setting an intention in my car on the way home)
- Find time for intentional silence (Even if it is before you fall asleep at night, spend time focussing on your breath and clearing your mind)
- If you can, declare a day of intentional rest for you and your family.
- Seek replenishing relationships. Find people who leave your elevated, encouraged and excited and stay away from the opposite.
- Play well. Engage in your hobby regularly. The opposite of play is not work, it is depression says, Dr Stuart Brown.
- Create your best health. If you are unfit, eat poorly, drink too much and smoke, your body will be unable to find equilibrium. It will always be recovering from regular physiological inflammatory insults. This message has been beaten to death, we all know what to do, just do it.
- Relentless edit your schedule and learn to say “no” more to activities and opportunities that don’t align with your purpose
- Declare device-free time regularly, disconnect to reconnect with yourself and practice being bored and creative! Break the habit and need to scroll for a dopamine hit.
- Write a stop doing list and pick the highest priority area to work on.
If there was one thing that I could hope for everyone to find, it would be “true rest”.
The relentless pace of our connected and digitalised world is striking.
But for me, it always returns to how short our lives actually are and the power that an intentional life can have in making an impact and difference in our world.
Deeper than that, I believe that true rest is found in Christ. He allows us to rest in his rhythms of grace (he is strength in our weakness, our refuge and hope).
One way we can achieve rest in our lives and live more meaningfully is through developing our own “self-care” blueprint or plan.
By doing so, I believe we will not only live a happier and more productive life, but I believe it will allow you to be relentless in pursuit of your passion and to deliver world-class quality in your chosen craft.
Remember you are a masterpiece, created to do good work!
Thank you for reading and please share this article because the message of rest is important.
Also, do not hesitate to comment and let me know how you uniquely rest and if you’d like to see an eBook in the future!
Enjoy your health
Dr Jonathan Ramachenderan