Before, like most kids, I pretended to fall asleep in the afternoons whenever my mother made me. Sometimes, I gave in to the bedsheets' smoothness. Other times, I pressed my face onto the soft pillow and counted for at least 20 seconds before I lifted it, instantly giving me the effect of waking up from a nap just in time for my mother's waking.
I still make that habit now to avoid getting scolded for not sleeping the night before a whole day in school. It was easier to pretend I had a good night's sleep than to explain why I felt like I was losing time to rest and felt guilty for reluctantly granting what my well-being constantly asked of me.
If only I knew how difficult it would be to close my eyes and clear my mind after calling it a day, I would've slept in those afternoons to make up for hours of rest I never thought I would lose as I grew up.
(Photo by Polina Kovaleva/Pexels)
Billy Joel was right when he said, "You've got so much to do and only so many hours in a day." Indeed, life often bombards us with too many things to do. The ideal "time management is the key" can't always make these more bearable and less chaotic.
Take us, students. Our daily quizzes need intense reviewing to pass or, at least, to score decently, while readings require a tedious process of comprehension to ace recitations. On top of our piled-up deadlines, most of us have unjust schedules — from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., having Saturday classes, you name it.
Some have to allot hours in commuting, treating hailing jeepneys as a competition and forcefully squeezing their way into jam-packed trains like canned sardines. Others have to work multiple jobs after classes until the wee hours of the morning.
To reclaim some sense of control and harmony over our lives and the different responsibilities we must fulfill, we list the things we must do to prepare for whatever is to come tomorrow. And, more often than not, we all don't have a blank space to spare and write down the words: rest, slow down, and pause tonight.
It leads to sacrificing something significantly more important in the long run, like our well-being, to gain another that is usually short-lived, like scoring a high grade on a quiz you spent all night reviewing for despite having a full-packed class schedule the next day.
If, by chance, we do have a line to spare, it's usually the last because resting feels like another assignment to tick off on our to-do lists rather than an indispensable need. The task of resting gets listed at the bottom — the least priority and the one that we constantly move from one day to another until we finally have no choice but to do it.
The paradox of resting
(Photo by Polina Kovaleva/Pexels)
Nowadays, it isn't easy to feel at ease after deciding to sleep. Most of the time, we twist and turn in our beds. Mentally computing how much time we have left to meet our deadlines and if there's any more to spare to unwind. We'll fall asleep eventually and wake up the following day, unable to remember the last time we felt well-rested. It's a constant cycle, a battle within ourselves we can't seem to win.
This paradoxical phenomenon is called relaxation-induced anxiety, where a person experiences heightened physical and psychological anxieties while attempting to rest by sleeping, watching movies, or taking a break from academic responsibilities and work.
Psychotherapist Sarah McLaughlin defines rest as being wholly present in the experience of resting. The mind must not be in constant turmoil as the body engages in a restful state. However, most of us fail to do so because we've come to a point where taking a break, no matter how short it is, makes us feel anxious and worrisome.
Because, in a fast-paced world such as ours, it's easy to think that we're constantly racing against time, that we can't help but feel that we should be doing something more productive when we try to unwind. It often makes us uneasy and reluctant, as if the clock ticks faster when we slow down.
We've also grown accustomed to equating self-worth with productivity. It creates a sense of restlessness when we try to relax because we grapple with the idea that we should be doing something more important to validate ourselves and the right to take breaks — as if rest is of little value.
Instead of freeing us from the grasp of our worries, relaxation-induced anxiety pushes us further into a pit where ruminating voices tell us we're running out of time and that we can only take a break if we finish the tasks we vowed to complete in a day.
It's easy to take rest for granted. We've been doing it for years, and it's a difficult habit to unlearn. I, myself, have yet to. However, we must remember that rest shouldn't feel prohibited. Nor is it something redeemable in exchange for overworking oneself to feel worthy of taking a break. Because if we don't take the initiative to give ourselves a break, our bodies will do it for us — and it will be much worse.