I am unwell and it is driving me nuts! The thought “I hate being weak” reverberates in my mind as I wrestle with the unsettling notion of ‘rest’ and the profound discomfort I feel at the idea of slowing down. As a woman of colour living with an invisible disability and chronic pain, this struggle is not just personal—it’s political. This isn’t about checking identity boxes. It’s about illuminating the often invisible struggles that come with those identities. My journey isn’t just about battling chronic pain. My journey is also a fight against societal norms and prejudices that shape how I am perceived and how I perceive myself.
Juggling the responsibilities of work, parenting, and home life while dealing with persistent health challenges has compelled me to radically reevaluate my relationship with rest. In this piece, I explore the transformative power of rest—not just as a form of healing, but as an act of resistance and empowerment.
The Toll of Constant Hustle
We exist in a culture that celebrates constant grind while sidelining the importance of rest. I’ve been a casualty of this mindset, measuring my value by how far I could push my limits. This approach gave me fleeting boosts of adrenaline, but it also took a toll, aggravating my chronic pain. The truth is, pain often makes me feel confined, so I overcompensate by overexerting myself, as if to prove my resilience and worth.
I’ve since realized that this mindset is largely shaped by a range of societal pressures, particularly the capitalist principles that pervade our daily existence (Pang, 2016). In a world where time is money, rest often takes a back seat. This singular focus on economic gains leaves little room for the well-being that comes from rest and leisure. The result? A culture of chronic exhaustion and reduced quality of life.
Moreover, the consumerism that capitalism fuels encourages overwork. Catchy social media slogans such as “Team No Sleep,” “#NoDaysOff,” and “The Grind Never Stops” are widely popular. The need to keep up with lifestyle aspirations makes rest seem like a luxury we can’t afford, further eroding our work-life balance. This mindset contributes to ongoing stress and declining well-being, something I know all too well. Recognizing the influence of these widespread mindsets is crucial for achieving a more balanced approach to work and life.
This impact is even more pronounced for Black, Indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC) and individuals with disabilities, who may face additional barriers in advocating for rest due to systemic inequalities. Discrimination in the workplace, economic disparities, limited healthcare access, cultural expectations, and the intersection of identities all contribute to the neglect of rest for these communities. To create a more compassionate future, we must address these interconnected factors and dismantle discriminatory structures (Hersey, 2022).
In many activist circles, the phrase “rest is resistance” is used to advocate for self-care as an essential part of long-term sustainability in social justice work. The concept argues that individuals, particularly those from marginalized communities, should prioritize self-care and well-being as acts of political resistance. The idea is that oppressive systems often rely on the physical and emotional labour of marginalized people, so taking time to rest and rejuvenate is a way to resist exploitation and burnout (Hersey, 2022).
The Importance of Intentional Rest: Practical Tips
Intentional rest is a crucial pillar of well-being. It goes beyond merely taking a break; intentional rest involves purposefully dedicating time to recharge our mind, body, and spirit (Eggerue, 2018). For those facing chronic pain or disabilities, intentional rest becomes even more vital in managing symptoms and fostering resilience. Realizing that true success encompasses holistic well-being, mental health, and meaningful connections allows us to shift our perspective on rest.
These are some tips that have guided me on my own journey:
- Conduct a Time Audit: Understanding that not everyone has the luxury of abundant free time, spend a week noting how your time is allocated. Look for pockets—however small—to replace draining activities with quick, restful ones, like a 5-minute deep-breathing exercise or a 10-minute walk.
- Create a Restful Space: A full ‘sanctuary’ may not be feasible for everyone, especially those with limited living spaces or shared homes. Instead, try to dedicate a corner or even a time of day where you can find some peace and disconnect from stress, even if it’s just a comfortable chair or a brief quiet moment in your car.
- Develop a Flexible Rest Routine: Create a ‘rest routine’ adaptable to your schedule. While a 20-minute meditation session is great, even just a few minutes of mindful breathing can be beneficial. The key is consistency.
- Digital Detox: If social media is a necessary part of your life or work, be selective about who you follow. Replace accounts that glorify constant work with those that offer a more balanced or realistic portrayal of life.
- Seek Professional Guidance: Consulting health professionals for chronic pain or mental health issues is not an option for everyone due to financial or accessibility constraints. However, many online resources and community clinics offer sliding scale fees or free programs.
- Seek Support Within Your Means: Open conversations with friends, family, or online communities focused on well-being can provide valuable emotional support. Building a support network doesn’t always require a therapist or life coach.
- Prioritize Rest, Even in Small Doses: The 9-to-5 work culture isn’t universal; many people work multiple jobs or unconventional hours. Try to treat rest as an essential part of your schedule, even if it’s in smaller, more frequent intervals.
- Social Media Audit: If social media is a necessary part of your life or work, be selective about who you follow. Replace accounts that glorify constant work with those that offer a more balanced or realistic portrayal of life.
- Set Boundaries Where Possible: Setting work boundaries can be particularly challenging for those in precarious employment situations. However, whenever possible, make your limits known and stick to them to protect your time for rest.
Navigating the complexities of chronic pain and societal expectations, I’ve come to appreciate that rest is not a sign of weakness but a radical act of self-preservation.
This piece is not just an exploration but a call to action, urging us all to reconsider how we define strength and success. If we want to be effective in our work, in our activism, and in our lives, we need to dismantle the harmful narrative that rest is a luxury and reclaim it as a necessary act of resistance.
With that in mind, I leave you with this question: Are you giving yourself the rest you deserve?
Recommended Reading: Rest is Resistance by Tricia Hersey (2022)
Eggerue, Chidera. (2018). “What a Time to be Alone: The Slumflower’s Guide to Why You Are Already Enough.” Quadrille Publishing.
Hersey, Tricia. (2022). “Rest is Resistance. A Manifesto”. Little Brown Spark.
Pang, Alex Soojung-Kim. (2016). “Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less.” Basic Books.
Notes Between Us (NBU) is a blog about conversations and topics of interest to the writers. The writers are expressing their personal opinions solely. The essays represent their personal beliefs and not those of their workplaces or any organization they are associated with.