Rest is the key to our sanity and survival. While strong research supports the importance of daily rest, both sleeping at night and relaxing during the day, the Creation story of Genesis demonstrates a deeper meaning. God designed us to be dependent on downtime. Here are 7 practical ways to get the rest you need:
1. PRAY – Worry and anxiety often stand between us and real rest and health. Instead of becoming upset while waiting in traffic, talk with God. When you’ve had a rough day at work, tell Him. Let Him know your worries and cares. Then turn them over to Him and trust that He will take care of you. The Bible tells us in Philippians 4:6, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.”
2. SLEEP – Develop a regular sleep pattern. If you are sleeping less than eight hours nightly, you are cheating yourself. Trying to catch up on sleep doesn’t work. Here’s how to get those restful zzz’s: exercise daily; eliminate caffeine intake, especially late in the day; avoid alcohol; eliminate large, fatty meals late in the day that can keep you awake; adopt a relaxing bedtime routine, something that prepares you for sleep, such as a warm bubble bath or listening to soft music.
3. BREATHE WELL – Proper breathing can help you relax. Try this: start from the very bottom of your lungs and breathe in slowly through your nose. Count slowly to five while inhaling. Then exhale through tight lips twice as long as you inhaled. Allow the head to drop toward the chest as you exhale, relaxing the back of your neck. Repeat this exercise four or five times until you notice your breathing is slowing down.
4. IMAGINE – Take 20-second (or much longer!) mental vacations. Wander through Yosemite National Park, walk along a white-sand Hawaiian beach, or browse in antique shops in Pennsylvania. By taking time “away” you will resettle or “resync” your mind and be able to face your day with new energy.
5. TAKE A VACATION – We all love vacations, but hardly ever take them. The average American worker feels that his or her workload just doesn’t allow for the luxury of a vacation. It is no wonder that we are living unhealthy, unbalanced lives. A balanced, healthy life includes regular time off. No, not just an occasional day here and there—even though those are helpful—but the “I went fishing in the Keys for two weeks” kind of vacations. Studies show that our bodies need several days to unwind from the stress of everyday life. Then we need several days after that for true rest to occur. Start planning your next vacation, a real one without cell phones, computers, and other work. Get away. Play. Rest.
6. LAUGH – The Bible book of Proverbs tells us that a cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones (Proverbs 17:22). Another way of saying this is that laughter is the best medicine. When we laugh, especially those laughs that start in our toes and don’t stop until they reach the top of our head, our blood pressure goes down, our muscles relax, and our brains release endorphins that make us feel better.
7. REST WEEKLY – Never forget the special rest that God created for us, the Sabbath rest when we leave behind our normal routine and spend one full day with Him and with family and friends. Spend the Sabbath reading the Bible and praying, enjoying nature, visiting a nursing home, going to church. Rest your body, mind, and spirit.
“Sabbath is a time to stop, to refrain from being seduced by our desires. To stop working, stop making money, stop spending money. See what you have. Look around. Listen to your life.” ~ Wayne Muller
This world is full of cares that make us weary. Strained relationships, heavy workloads, and financial burdens all take a stressful toll. But whatever our situation, God desires to give us rest. When we come to Him and follow His ways, He will provide true rest in every sense.