Sometimes I feel like I’m two people in one body. I greatly value rest and relaxation, but I also love to be productive and accomplish tasks. Perhaps you can relate? It feels good to finish a project and see what I’ve done. At the same time, there’s nothing I love more than a day at home with nothing on my to-do list. I find comfort in quietly sitting at my kitchen counter flipping through whatever magazine landed in my mailbox, or rolling out my yoga mat and sitting with my thoughts.
I’ll be honest, most of my free time is spent doing. If my favorite band comes into town, I go. If a friend wants to go on an adventure, I go. If the house needs to be cleaned, I clean it. We all know that these kinds of things usually take up all of our free time. And that leaves little time for rest.
Growing up, I was taught that accomplishing tasks was the optimal way to spend my time. I think this goes for most of us – at least in American culture. It’s the hustle culture – and it’s all pervasive.
Many of us proudly list our career accomplishments on our Linkedin page, we celebrate 12 hour work days, and our response to the question “how have you been?” is usually “busy” – and that’s supposed to be a good thing. It’s rare that we tell someone we’ve been focusing on slowing down, tuning in, and healing.
What do I mean by healing, you might ask? It’s different for everyone, but I’ll give my own personal example. For me, stress and trauma are stored in my muscles. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had back and neck pain on a daily basis. The more I truly prioritize rest and mindfulness, the better my body feels!
There are many other ways your body and mind tell you to relax. For some, it’s digestion. For others, stress presents itself through the skin or through breathing. For many, it’s more blatant anxiety and depression – which tie into it all. It’s all connected.
The key is to find your own personal balance between hustle and healing. I believe it’s important to create, to build, to see the fruits of your labor. If we indulge in pleasure too much, things no longer become pleasurable. As humans we are meant to be challenged, to have skills, and to experience both pleasure and pain.
So we should have days where we work hard even if we don’t want to. We should work towards our goals and dreams. And other days we need to listen to our bodies. It all comes down to decisions. Perhaps we take a nap instead of drinking another cup of coffee, or stay home instead of going out one night, or practice yoga instead of scrolling Instagram.
We have to understand the difference between restful healing and time filling activities. For some people it’s really easy to spend an entire day on Tik Tok – but I think most would agree this doesn’t help our stress levels.
In fact, social media usually makes us more stressed. We have to find the things that make us feel like ourselves again. When I finish a breathwork practice or a yoga nidra practice (which is basically guided meditation), the world glows. I feel calm and grounded and at ease with myself.
So, in a way, these tasks are actually productive. In fact, meditating is possibly the most productive thing you can do. Ironically, it’s the only task you can do that has no end, no goal. I also think playing an instrument, painting, writing and any other focused, creative or mindful task that makes you feel whole is a powerful way to rest and heal from all of the hustling we do otherwise.
Healing is about the balance between effort and ease, in yoga philosophy called “sthira” and “sukha.” It’s about figuring out how to nurture yourself between the hustle – between all of the movement. It’s a never ending journey, and that’s exactly what makes life so beautiful.