The Best Gift You Can Give Yourself Is Rest

Stress from the workweek, the weight of difficult emotions, restlessness in the body—any combination of these can interfere with sleep.

Анастасия Горшкова/Adobe Stock

Having trouble sleeping? Yeah, me too. 

Lately I feel like I’m running on high and pumping adrenaline in fight-or-flight mode, even when my body isn’t moving. 

I was off work last week, and went careening into my staycation with a to-do list of household chores and long put off paperwork to accomplish. Instead, I found myself taking comfort in my usual coping mechanisms—snacks and reality TV, and experiencing a weird cycle of sleeping either too much or not enough, never quite able to hit the sweet spot. There are a few things that likely contributed to this particular state—lingering stress from the workweek, trying to avoid feeling the weight of the world through my emotions, and some restlessness and pain in my body. Here are a few practices to explore what’s keeping us awake.

3 Practices to Explore What’s Keeping You Awake

Usually I have total faith that my body knows what it needs, but this time I tricked myself into believing I was resting. While binge-watching TV shows, I was suppressing my looming feelings of overwhelm and stress. Elaine Smookler says, “When some piece of news or alarming reality knocks you down, you may well feel completely overwhelmed. It’s natural. It’s your body’s response to alarm.” If you can relate, check out Elaine’s practice for making friends with what you’re feeling. 

So many of us are trying to be empathetic and kind, and feel our feelings, but it draws on our energy and attention in a way that can interfere with basic needs like sleep. This can feel like walking on a tightrope and coming back to the breath can be a steady anchor when we’re teetering. In this practice roundup, Executive Editor Heather Hurlock reminds us to “take a deep, calming breath, and notice what is happening in your body.”

When sleep eludes us, sometimes the best we can hope for is rest—and they’re not always the same thing. Whether you find yourself in need of sleep, rest, or a safe way to process your feelings, try these yoga stretches suggested by Steve Calechman to prepare our bodies and minds to slow down.

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