choosing a method of restoration when you’re completely, totally pooped

This weekend, I had a photo session. It was a really good one. Super-fun client; gorgeous, warm autumn day; golden light.

When I got home after the session, I was, at first, all riled up. That happens for me with photo sessions. It’s exciting to be taking photos, to be chatting and laughing with whomever I’m photographing, and to be excited about how the photos will turn out.

I realized I needed to sit down on the couch and just kind of soak up all that had happened. While I was soaking, I uploaded the day’s photos to my computer.

After that, I noticed that I was completely pooped. I considered the possibility of starting to process the photos then, and I almost did, because I like to get started right away.

Then I realized that all I wanted to do was sit. Passively. I didn’t even want to meditate (focusing on my breath was just too much effort for that moment, you know?).

I ended up watching the first episode of Nashville on my computer. Wrapped in a blanket as the living room darkened into twilight, the only independent thought I registered was, “Wow. I’m totally pooped. I need to rest myself up.”

Years ago, I wouldn’t have known enough about my physical and emotional self to even realize that I was tired and needed to rest. Back then, I didn’t recognize the value of rest, and how it benefits me and those around me. I didn’t see that I deserved to have needs, and to meet those needs.

It was such a difference, noticing the shift I’ve experienced — a shift to knowing myself better and treating myself better. The way I acted the other day is far more in line with my values than the forceful me of previous years. I value rest a lot. And so I rest.

This all led me to think about how I go about resting up, or “refilling the well,” as I’ve heard friends say. What are our options for rest, and how do we decide which one is right for the moment?
  • Sleep: It’s a classic, eh? Sleep is great when we’ve calmed down from our exertions enough to actually sleep. It’s immensely healing and satisfying. You know it’s the right course of action when you’re fantasizing about snuggling into bed.
  • Passive Awakeness: This is what I did the other day after my photo session. It’s ideal for those situations where our brain has been working hard, and we aren’t yet ready to go to sleep but need a way to disengage a little bit.
The only problem I see with passive activities like watching TV or movies is that they can distract some of us from recognizing when we do become ready for sleep. Also, depending on what method of passive awakeness we select, we might end up more tired than we started.
The best way to avoid getting carried away with these passive activities is to consistently check in with ourselves to figure out what it is we’re needing and whether this activity is continuing to meet that need.
  • Intentional Rest: For me, there are many activities that fall into this category. You’ll be different, of course. However, here are a few: reading, doing yoga nidra, doing very gentle yoga, savasana, a Day of Nothing, journaling, and meditation. If you know that intentional rest is what you’re needing, check in with yourself and try to determine which of these is the best method to meet your needs. (Note: This checking-in doesn’t need to be rocket science. Just ask yourself what sounds delicious to you in the moment, and go with the thing that comes up.)
As with everything, choosing the right path of rest for each moment requires curiosity and some trial and error. Keep in mind that you don’t ever have to rest “perfectly.” Just do what sounds good to you, and that will be the right course of action for you in that moment. There is always, always room to learn and change things and then learn some more.

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