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Woman in autumn meditating for mental health and mental rest

Choosing Mental Rest This Holiday Season

The idea of mental rest might seem straightforward. Yet, with exciting distractions at our fingertips, a relentless demand to be “on,” and a holiday season around the corner, it may be tougher to feel revitalized than you expect. Have you ever had one of those days where you wander off into space, staring blankly at a wall (or computer screen) for long stretches at a time? 

For most, when the weekend arrives, we await catching up on the rest we lost during the week and do whatever we can to feel recuperated before Monday rolls around. More often than not, we end up lazing around the house as we mindlessly watch a stream of shows—or catch up on household chores and run any errands that we couldn’t fit in after work. Sadly, even practices like these hardly allow for our brains to turn off, which is why you likely never feel recharged following a lazy weekend or why you can end up more exhausted than before. 

What is Mental Rest, and How Do You Do It?

If you are suffering from brain fog, noticing yourself struggling to pay attention, struggling to make decisions, or even having trouble winding down after a long day at work, mental rest may be in your best interest. Remembering this helpful practice is just as important as taking steps to adapt it into your everyday life and recovery plan. 

Claudia Hammond, a psychologist who received the British Academy President’s Medal for her work in improving the public understanding of psychology, defines the ideal activity for mental rest as “one that gives you a break from other people, to allow your mind to wander and to distract you from your worries, without making you feel so lazy or guilty that the restfulness is ruined.” Be mindful t that one person’s mental rest will look different from another person’s, and this is completely okay! 

Taking that into account, here are some examples of activities that will help you achieve that much-needed mental rest, and as a bonus, some include projects that double as gifts to give to loved ones for the holidays!

Nature-Based Activities 

  • While walking, pick up leaves, flowers, or other plants to place in a scrapbook later (pressed leaves and flowers make a beautiful gift!) This doesn’t have to be fancy; I have collections of plants stashed in notebooks held down by cling film. 
  • Make time for tea (or coffee or other warm beverage). Pick a corner of the house or time of day where/when you can truly unwind. Commit to making this a regular practice!
  • If the time and resources are available to you, find the closest silent retreat nearby and attend for a few days (or make your home into a silent retreat!)

Get Creative: 

  • Bake or cook some favorite treats representative of the holiday season and gift them.
  • Scribble and doodle as your mind unwinds. You can also draw, paint, color in a coloring book or drawing pages, make a collage, write a story, or take photographs.

*Avoid or turn off your phone! No scrolling through or posting to social media, as this will keep your brain from resting* 

The Importance of Not Always Being Productive (And Just How Productive That Can Be Toward Your Treatment and Recovery Goals)

A narrative that I’ve heard endless times is that the key to success lies in our productivity. What if we looked beyond that narrative and, while it may sound impractical, discover how being less productive may actually aid in meeting our treatment and recovery goals? Constantly working and keeping our minds active takes a toll. And there are great benefits to slowing down as Rick Hanson Ph.D. explains, “When you get rest, you have more energy, mental clarity, resilience for the hard things, patience…When you don’t rest, you wear out and start running on empty. Then you’re not much good for yourself or anyone else.”  

“When you get rest, you have more energy, mental clarity, resilence for hard things, patience…When you don’t rest, you wear out and start running on empty. Then you’re not much good for yourself or anyone else.”

Think about the last time you were extremely overwhelmed. Anxious thoughts flooded your mind and to silence the thoughts, you reached for a cigarette or poured yourself a glass of wine. While your thoughts might have initially settled down, following the rush of dopamine and serotonin, you can’t fall asleep because the thoughts returned and didn’t stop all night. You wake up groggy and feel on edge all day long. You grab another cigarette, pour another glass, and the cycle continues. Alternatively, imagine taking a deep breath, turning off all your electronics: your computer, phone, and tv, and resting, with your eyes closed, silently in the dark. A routine such as this provides a break from the onslaught of mental stimulation that we endure daily while offering enough mental relaxation to assist you in drifting off to sleep. 

We all need to learn how to rest efficiently. By turning our screens off and granting ourselves time for our minds to roam free, we can rejuvenate our brains for the upcoming week. Our brains crave a lack of stimulation, and without it, they can’t properly restore. This affects our mood, health and overall performance. 

Where Mental Rest and Recovery Meet

At Promises Behavioral Health, we want you to succeed at your goals and be the best you can be. It is why we offer a variety of programs in our facilities, some of which revolve around mindlessness and learning how to rest your mind. If you or someone you know may be interested in our services or finding out about different treatment options available, call us at 844 875 5609 or contact us online!