Rest Your Way to Better Health
by PeggySue Wells
Are you weary? Is your family tired? Is your work team running on empty?
Each year, we traditionally set resolutions and goals to help us develop healthy habits that improve our lives and relationships. Yet, food and fitness are merely symptomatic of a deeper concern. We know how to run hard. But we don’t know how to rest well.
“How are you?” We ask one another.
“Busy,” is the common reply.
Imagine answering, “Well and rested.”
The first thing in Scripture that God blessed, rest is the missing piece in our hurried and harried schedules. When we are well rested, joy returns, relationships flourish, productivity is optimized, and troublesome medical conditions and unhealthy habits diminish. But in a culture that values a strong work ethic and superhuman productivity, we can feel guilty about our need for rest. At best, we substitute entertainment and escape for rest, only to continue feeling depleted.
God provided life-giving rhythms of work and rest. “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done” (Genesis 2:2-3 NIV).
Rest that works consists of four practices.
Adults require seven to nine hours daily. Less than seven hours of sleep sets us up for trouble. Chronic deficits put us in the grave earlier than expected.
Babies to one-year-olds: 12 to 15 hours
One to three-year-olds: 12 to 14 hours
Four to six-year-olds: 10 to 12 hours
Seven to 12-year-olds: 10 to 11 hours
Teens through adult: 8 to 9 hours
For better sleep,
- One to two hours prior to bed, turn off all media. TV, movies, and computers stimulate the brain, making it harder to fall asleep. Use the period just before bed to play board and card games, read, and bathe.
- Balance blood sugar with a bedtime snack that includes protein, fat, and carbohydrates. This could be a half a tuna sandwich, peanut butter on a banana, or almonds and raisins.
With adequate sleep, life looks better, we make smarter decisions, and we hear the Lord’s voice clearer. Sleep rejuvenates us.
When was the last time you gave yourself a break? Step away from the fray. Carve out opportunities to turn your back on what consumes the best of your time, energy, and attention, and turn toward the people and activities that give you life. Minutes matter. Hours make a difference. A day away delivers. Follow Jesus’ example of time off the beaten path.
Disconnect from distractions to meet with God. As you dive into Scripture, listen carefully to what God has for you on that day. God is always speaking. Stillness is the opportunity to listen. Stillness reconnects us with the One who knows our name.
Sabbath: “Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest, and so that the slave born in your household and the foreigner living among you may be refreshed,” (Exodus 23:12 NIV). Sabbath refreshes. It is an opportunity to reconnect with people and priorities we hold near and dear. What refreshes your spirit? One is refreshed by reading a book, while running a marathon refreshes another. As our Creator, God knows our need to be refreshed each week. Rest was woven into the beginning of all creation. At Mt. Sinai, when giving the Ten Commandments, God added an explanation point. Sabbath refreshes us.
How rested are you? Take the quiz
- In the past four weeks I’ve enjoyed four days off that were care-free with minimal work around the house.
- This last week I’ve had five nights of 7-8 hours of sleep.
- I enjoy a purpose-driven pause on a regular/daily basis.
- I took a restorative day or weekend away in the last six months.
- I enjoyed four evenings last week with no out-of-the-home obligations.
- I took all my vacation time last year.
Score 0-3: You are running on the fumes of an empty tank.
Score 4: You are familiar with the rejuvenating aspects of rest and renewal, but gaps remain.
Score 5-6: The life-giving rhythms of rest are established in your life.
When rested, we are no longer grouchy, our sleep is deeper, our weight naturally settles where it belongs, we are not sick, and blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol become easier to manage. With rest, joy returns.
Here are ways you can implement the rhythms of rest right now.
1) Know your mission for the season of life you are now living. Measure what you say yes to against your mission. Give a hard pass to activities that do not align.
2) When another need or opportunity arises, reply, “Let me get back to you.” Then pray. Listen carefully. If you are living with little margin, a yes will demand a no to something else.
3) Daily, schedule quiet time for prayer and reading Scripture. Weekly, schedule a half day to do what refreshes your soul. Monthly or quarterly, plan a day away.
4) Arrange to regularly get eight hours of nightly sleep.
Why rest? The call and quality of our life depends on it. Jesus routinely went to a quiet place to be with God and pray. On the Sea of Galilee, Jesus felt so weary He fell asleep in the bottom of the boat and not even a storm woke Him. There is no reason to feel guilty about our need for rest after periods of working hard.
This year, rest your way to better health, productivity, creativity, and joy.
History buff, and tropical island votary, PeggySue (P.S.) Wells works hard and has learned to rest well. She parasails, skydives, snorkels, scuba dives, and has taken (but not passed) pilot training. Writing from the 100-Acre wood in Indiana, PeggySue Wells is the bestselling author of 29 books, translated into eight languages, including The What To Do series, The Slave Across the Street, Slavery in the Land of the Free, Bonding with Your Child Through Boundaries, Homeless for the Holidays, and Chasing Sunrise.
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