Five Lessons on Rest

We’re back! After taking our first-ever summer wellness break for three weeks, we are back this week, and finding that work groove again. You know it was a real break when you forget what computer programs you use to do your job. We took that kind of break. This three-week hiatus was inspired by the collective impact of the challenges we all experienced over the last three years, of what it means to support girls, their caregivers, and teachers through this time. During our staff meeting, we shared lessons learned from our organizational pause. Here are five takeaways highlighting the benefits of rest — we hope these will help you to show up more rejuvenated in your classrooms and homes.

1. To get true rest, we need to set boundaries.

Rest doesn’t automatically happen because the work stopped. There were the demands of family, caretaking, friends, paying the bills, and keeping up with life. To actually be able to physically and mentally pause, we found ourselves saying no to invitations, or asking for help with the kids. These are essential scripts for our girls to hear so that they can learn to set boundaries and get true rest too.

2. Rest is an essential part of healing, and lets us know where the healing needs to happen.

To heal and learn about our emotional needs, we need to feel and process those feelings, maybe even share them with others, listen to the response, and listen to ourselves. We can’t go through this process of healing while packing our lunch, answering emails, attending meetings, or writing papers. For many of us, the bit of healing that happened over just three weeks, let us know how much more healing we need. Rest is what gives us a chance to connect with the emotional work essential to our well-being.

3. Resting is an opportunity to explore our thoughts about our feelings.

Sometimes we are afraid to pause in our lives to sit with our feelings because we don’t know what emotions will come up or we think it will be overwhelming. During our recent Girl Advisory Board-led conference, “Thoughts on Thoughts,” the girls discussed the hesitancy to take time to sit with their feelings because of this fear. Staying busy can be a way to avoid our emotions. Understanding how we use “work” to stay away from our feelings helps us create better wellness activities.

4. Restorative rest isn’t as easy as it sounds.

Most of us don’t get celebrated for taking a long nap. The praise comes when we burn the candle at both ends and produce at work and at home. When this habit starts early, our own internal sense of self-worth is built on our achievements and productivity. When the work stops, we turn our energy to cleaning out the fridge. And if we manage to let the fridge go this week, then we are left sitting with our actual thoughts and feelings. Dealing with a dirty fridge might be easier than dealing with our feelings!

Actually resting means that we have to believe we are valuable as human beings — achievements, productivity, and connections aside. Then we have to get ready for what comes up for us when we aren’t distracted by the treadmill of work and life. Not as easy as it sounds.

5. Resting is a chance to find our way back to creativity.

When we get caught up in the stress of deadlines, keeping up with work, caretaking, and surviving a pandemic, we don’t have the privilege of exercising our creative muscles. By taking a pause from the screens, from the usual level of stress these days, we started to get a little more creative again. We are seeing this in ways big and small, from new meals we are trying, new approaches to meetings, new ways of building community, and for us at Girls Leadership, there is the ultimate need to create a future of equity in agency and leadership across every sector of our society, and every aspect of our private lives. We can’t build this new future without the creativity required to build new ways of being.

It all begins with getting some rest. We hope that you will get a summer dose. Your girls and youth will benefit from your example.


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