One of my daughters struggled with anxiety at the beginning of the school year. It began in math class but quickly spilled over into our home life.
Nighttime was the hardest: It took her longer to fall asleep and she often woke up throughout the night. Each time she was jarred from sleep, she’d tiptoe into my room and shake me awake, worried about being unable to fall back to sleep or feeling tired for school the next day.
It got to the point where she would wake me several times a night. She began to dread bedtime and I was exhausted. Though we were working to address her anxiety, I was stumped on how to restore our sleep.
One afternoon I called her into my room. As we lounged on the pillows, I told her how I loved the soft blues and greens of my bedroom set, the coolness of the duvet against my skin. My bedroom is cozy and restful, and I can’t wait to spend time there each evening.
“I don’t like my bed,” she admitted. I paused, then asked what would help her love it.
We began by clearing out the books she had lining the edges of her bunk bed. The open space and minimal clutter was a vast improvement. After that, we added a new nightlight for reading. Finally, with a couple of clicks on Amazon to purchase a sleep mask she thought might help, we were all set.
And that was it—that was the reset button she needed. She stopped waking me at night because we had created an environment where she felt like she could rest.
In this case, clearing out a physical space helped my daughter. But when it comes to finding rest as grown women, our environment isn’t always about our physical surroundings, it’s often the state of our heart. While you and I might sleep well at night, we often struggle to find true rest.
Motherhood brings both burdens and blessings. Though I love my children deeply, I feel the weight of whether or not I’m successfully teaching and guiding them into becoming people who love God and love others well. I guiltily wonder whether or not I’m doing enough as a wife, mom, worker, and member of society.
Resting can feel selfish, but it’s not. Psalm 127:2 says it this way:
It is useless for you to work so hard
from early morning until late at night,
anxiously working for food to eat;
for God gives rest to his loved ones. (NLT)
Rest is a gift from God to us, children whom he loves deeply. It’s not an attempt to escape our life; it’s an opportunity to pause and thank God for where he’s placed us, and then be filled by Him.
Rest is not a luxury, it’s a necessity.
As God’s children, wholly and deeply loved, we are called to an abundant life. Remember the promise of the Psalms? The Lord is my shepherd—I have all that I need. When we exchange a mindset of scarcity (I need to work harder, strive more, do better, buy more) to one of abundance (God has already given me what I truly need), we can lean into the rest God desires for us.
If that feels like it’s easy to say but not do, take five minutes and try these tips:
- First, find an area where you can be alone. Behind a locked bathroom door, tucked away in the garage, outside on the deck. It’s ok to step away from the kids into a place that’s quiet.
- Next, do some breathing exercises. Close your eyes and breathe deeply—in through your nose, out through your mouth. Count to four slowly as you inhale. Hold the breath for four counts. Release it through your mouth in four counts. Rest for four counts, then start the exercise again. I often picture myself tracing around the outside of a square: 4, 4, 4, 4.
- Breathing slowly activates a part of the brain that sends out neurohormones to inhibit stress-producing hormones, triggering a relaxation response in the body. As you work on breathing deeply, take time to scan through your body, consciously relaxing each body part and any areas of tension.
- When your body and mind slow down, take a moment to pray or focus on a verse from God’s word. Let this verse be a reminder of who God is and what He’s done for you – something that focuses on Him and His character.
- Finally, refocus on gratitude. Studies have shown that it increases our physical and psychological well-being (we sleep better and are more empathetic), improves our self-esteem, and makes us more resilient.
While our mini-makeover of her bedroom wasn’t a cure-all for my daughter’s anxiety, it did provide a significant step toward hope and healing. For you and I, actively taking time to better experience the rest God invites us to find in him can often be our own first step toward peace.
Though five minutes can’t provide all the physical rest we need, it can be a reminder for us to slow down, remember what God has done for us, and find the rest for our souls that He promises.
Your turn! How do you fit rest into a busy day?
A career in journalism set Kristin Demery up to publish her own stories of living this wild, precious life. She now is an author of five truth-telling books, including the latest 100 Days of Kindness, and part of a trio of writers collectively known as The Ruth Experience. Kristin served as a newspaper and magazine editor and her work has been featured in a variety of publications, including USA Today. She still works behind-the-scenes as an editor for others while writing her own series on kindness, friendship, and living with intention. Find more from Kristin at theruthexperience.com.