If you’ve ever heard yourself say, “I just want to be able to relax!” then this episode is for you. In order to be able to relax, you have to figure out why you CAN’T. Here are 5 possible reasons.

How many times have I heard myself say, why can’t I just relax? So so so many times, so many times, I cannot even count. And it is also something that I hear my clients and even people who I don’t work with, say it’s like, I just can’t let myself relax until fill in the blank. So I’ve been thinking about this concept from a nervous system point of view. And I came up with five reasons, you can’t rest Five Reasons You can’t let yourself rest. For some of these reasons, I’m going to talk a bit about what the solution is. And for others, I’m just gonna give you the reason.

Your beliefs about what might happen

So the first reason why you can’t allow yourself to rest is because of your belief about what might happen. If you do, we take this idea that like, if I sit down, then I’ll never get anything done. And I’ve been hearing my clients and also myself say this.

And I realized that what we’re saying is, if I sit down for one minute, I will never again in the future of my life, accomplish anything. How ridiculous is that? I’m calling this maximizing the results, we take one little snippet of like sitting down for one minute, and we take it to the maximum. If I sit down for one minute, then I’ll be sitting for the rest of eternity. And if I’m sitting for the rest of eternity, then I will never accomplish anything.

First of all, you won’t be sitting for the rest of eternity, because who wants to sit forever? Like, how often? are we sitting here in our seats, and we’re like, Ah, I just gotta get up and walk around and stand up and move my body? Like, in no universe, will you be confined to your bed or the couch for the rest of eternity. And second of all, even if you were, let’s say you have a disability, and you have to sit in bed or on your couch 24/7. Does that mean you’ll never get anything done? I can actually get quite a bit done telling people what to do and how to do it from the couch.

So just be on yourself about that. And I would say the solution to this, this belief about what might happen. And maximizing those ideas in our head is that you just need to prove yourself wrong. We need to listen to ourselves, say I can’t sit down because then I will never get anything done the rest of the day, too. All right, well, let’s see.

Right, let’s sit down for one minute or five minutes and just take a little rest and let’s see, let’s just see what happens. Maybe on day one, when you do this, you’re like, Oh, this feels so good. Yes, I want to stay sitting or I want to go curl up in bed. And really, honestly, I think that’s just a sign that you need more rest. Most of the time, something will happen, something will come along in which you’ll have to stand up and go do something. And then you’re wrong.

So whenever you hear yourself saying like, Oh, I can’t sit down because then I won’t get anything done. You just say no, that’s false, or wrong. If I sit down for a minute or five minutes, or
God forbid, an hour, I will still get things done later.

You may associate negative emotions with rest

Okay, so that’s reason number one, your belief about what might happen and you taking those imagined results and maximizing them.

The second thing that I see that happens a ton with myself with my clients is that rest is associated with a negative emotion or multiple negative emotions that you don’t want to feel. I see guilt and shame as being the most common like, if I sit down if I let myself rest, then all the guilt comes up right then like, Oh, I’m such a terrible person. I shouldn’t be sitting here. I should be teaching my kids homeschool. I should be making dinner like whatever it is, right.

It’s like, I’m not allowed to ever take a break or take time for myself. And if I do, then all this guilt and shame comes up. And for this, in addition to the proving yourself wrong, like, I do want you to just take a break for five minutes or an hour, or whatever it is, and put the guilt and the shame on the shelf and just be like, Nope, this is my time, I’m just going to rest and I’m not going to feel bad about it. And prove yourself wrong.

There, you can do that with this, this particular reason as well, but more so I want you to focus on the fact that if it’s a feeling that’s coming up, then you’re going to have to feel your way out of it. And most likely, you will need some extra support and resources in order to do that. Because most of us if we sit down for five minutes, and the guilt and the shame comes up of I should be hanging out with my kids or I should be cooking dinner, or I said I was going to clean out the freezer or whatever it is.

So most of us are like, Oh, I don’t want to feel that I don’t want to feel that awful, terrible feeling. And so being able to just allow yourself to sit down and rest might mean that you kind of have to feel that feeling for a little bit. And if that’s the case, you might need some support, you might need somebody to be supporting you in it’s okay to feel guilty right now. It’s okay, if you feel some shame coming up, this is still good for you. You can do it. That’s what I do in coaching, if you want to come join me.

That’s reason number two rest might be associated with negative emotion that you don’t want to feel. So then of course, you never let yourself rest. So that you don’t have to feel those emotions. The irony is that most of the time we’re feeling negative emotions, even when we don’t let ourselves rest, right? It’s different negative emotion, like exhaustion, maybe frustration or anger. Like I have to do everything. The truth is you don’t have to do everything. But you can’t let yourself slow down and rest because you’re so scared of feeling guilt or shame or some other negative emotion.

Your rest is not restful

All right, number three, is that your rest is not actually restful, you may have attempted to rest.
And if it’s not actually restful, then you feel like well, what’s the point, like I said, I took a nap or I sat down and scrolled my phone or whatever rest looks like for you. And then I felt just as tired. So I may as well keep working, keep going and not rest. So a couple of things that I’ve learned that I wanted to mention. The first is that I wear an oura ring. So if you’re watching on YouTube, you can see the video, this is what my oura ring looks like. And I was a bit resistant to getting an oura ring. At first, they’re a little pricey. They’re I think they’re $300. Sometimes you can find a $50 off coupon.

And I was just like, do I need another thing to help me? But I have loved my oura ring. I did have a little blip where the charger stopped working. And they had to send me a new charger. But I’ve been wearing my oura ring for 10 months. And it is so amazing, the data that is collected and what I’m learning about myself, and particularly about my sleep.

So I have struggled. Like I feel like my whole life I’ve needed more sleep than most people. But it turns out that if you look at the stats of my sleep, like my resting heart rate and my heart rate variability, which are two indicators of how restful your sleep is, my sleep isn’t actually very restful. So that kind of makes sense. I’m like, oh my gosh, my whole life. So that’s one thing I can give you a link I don’t get paid or anything but I think if like five people sign up through my link for an oura ring and they’re gonna like send me a fancy sleep mask or something like that. So I don’t give you my link to you know, benefit off of that in any large way. But other than I legitimately love wearing an oura ring, I love the data that it’s giving me and how I’m learning about my sleep and my rest. And it also tracks steps.

Types of rest that we need

The second thing that I’ve learned about rest and restfulness is that there are different types of rest, sleep and napping. They’re just one type. And actually one subtype of one type. So I’m going to drop a link to an article about the seven types of rest. And it is from a doctor, her name is Dr. Saundra Dalton Smith. And she kind of came up with this idea of these different seven different types of rest. And I think it’s brilliant. So I totally want to give her credit, I will drop the link to that article, it is a goop article, I find that it is very well written, it is concise, it makes sense. So I’m just going to hit here in this podcast episode, the seven types of rest, to give you an idea of what we mean.

Physical Rest

The first type of rest is physical rest, but within physical rest, there’s active physical rest, and there’s passive physical rest. So active rest is like sleeping or napping. Passive physical rest is like going for a walk or doing yoga or stretching. It’s this idea of our bodies need to change when we’re sleeping for too long, our bodies get sore, and we want to get up and move. And when we’re moving or
stressing the physical capacity of our body for too long, then we want to sit down and rest, we need change, and we need to be dynamic in our movement.

Mental rest

That’s the first kind of rest. The second kind of rest is mental rest, it’s when you find that your mind is super busy. And it’s running all the time and you can’t shut it off. You need mental rest. One way to do this is meditation. I know a lot of people who have very active minds, my husband is one of them. And they you know, have “tried meditation” and can’t do it. But if you stick with it, I promise you, it will bring results.

Social Rest

The third kind of rest that we need is social rest. So social rest is the rest that we need when we need to be around people who energize us, and it depends on you and what you need, in particular, your social preferences. For what energizes you, oftentimes, we live and work with people who drain us. If you’re a parent, and you have kids, especially young kids, they need something from you all the time, that is going to be socially draining. And so we need to be around adults and have lively conversation and that kind of thing that is social rest. It’s not like I need to be away from people, it, it’s more like I need to be around a different kind of people that that give me something different socially.

Spiritual rest

Number four type of rest is spiritual rest. So spiritual rest is the rest that we get, when we are kind of living in alignment to our own values, right? Part of this is feeling like we belong, feeling like our work is meaningful, that we’re giving back to the community. So I kind of think oftentimes, people who are in burnout, like a typical, corporate job, and I’m just burnt out, it’s probably because they aren’t feeling like their work is super meaningful. So there’s more to say about that. And there’s more to say about all of these kinds of rest, but I’m gonna keep going here.

Sensory rest

The fifth kind of rest is sensory rest. This is the one that at this point in my life, I tend to need the most sensory rest is like if you have a lot of inputs. If you’re on the computer a lot or on your phone a lot, you’re like constantly looking at light. If you are in a noisy environment. Like I have a kid who really likes to listen to classic rock, and so whenever I’m in the car with him, he turns on classic rock and it just it’s like too much for my sensory system.

So this all the sensory input, sometimes we just need to disconnect from all of the sensory inputs and go somewhere where there’s less or different kinds of sensory input. So you know, instead of being on the computer, going for a walk outside and noticing the clouds in the sky and the birds and and you know, whatever, like the green grass. That’s a different kind of sensory input. So I think probably most of the world needs sensory rest, but I could be wrong.

Emotional Rest

Number six kind of rest is an emotional rest. And emotional rest refers to the rest that we experience when we feel like we can be real and authentic, like, we don’t have to manage or fake our emotions. We can be angry, if we’re angry, we can be sad, if we’re sad, that kind of thing. And sometimes we don’t have a place to do that, I think that’s one of the brilliant reasons to hire a coach is simply from the fact of you get to be whoever, and whatever you are. And I have zero judgment of that, like, I know that every single emotion has a place and a purpose. And so you don’t have to apologize for crying or for being angry or for being confusing or anything like that. We carry a lot of emotional labor. And sometimes we feel like we have to hide that. And so to have a place where you can put that down. And then the seventh and final type of rest, at least according to Dr. Dalton Smith, is creative rest.

Creative rest

So creative rest is when we can have an opportunity to appreciate beauty in any form. And when we have an opportunity to be creative, in any form. To have a hobby, or, you know, art, music, dance, those kinds of things. We need we are as humans, naturally creators, we all create in some way, unless we tell ourselves that we can’t and or we don’t make time for it. And so it’s more than just like being an artist, like putting pencil to paper or sculpting or something like that. But it’s it’s having an opportunity to create in whatever way that means to you. Most of us need that kind of rest quite a bit.

You are stuck in active response mode

Okay, so the number three reason why you can’t allow yourself to rest it’s because your rest is not restful. And so then you think, well, what’s the point, I shouldn’t even be doing this, okay? Number four reason why your rest is not restful is because you are stuck in an active response.

So thinking about the nervous system, this is being stuck in that fight or flight mode, having lots of activation, lots of energy in your nervous system in your body. And oftentimes, when we have lots of activation, this, we tend to label it anxiety or anger, we think we need to calm down. But actually, when we have lots of activation, the way to metabolize that activation, is to move is to actually physically move your body. That’s how we metabolize activation, that active energy in us.

Sometimes you will find yourself saying like I just got to do something. And we think that means I got to sit at my computer and accomplish some work. So just kind of be onto yourself. And I would really encourage you to play with this, when you hear yourself saying I just got to do something, then go for a walk or pace around the room. Or do some push ups or jumping jacks or something like that. I love the exercise of pushing against the wall. Now you’re not going to do anyone any harm. But when you push against the wall as if you’re like really legitimately trying to move the wall, your muscles have to activate. And it requires energy, even though you’re not going anywhere and the walls not going anywhere. It helps you metabolize some of that energy.

And a lot of my clients also really love this too. You can walk in place or jog in place like this doesn’t mean that you have to like go to the gym. Movement is movement. It’s not necessarily exercise. So if you are stuck in an active response in this sort of feeling of like I got to do something wanting to fight or wanting to get away. What you really need are resources, right? Like when we’re expending energy, it requires resources from us. So that might be when you want to go eat something because you’re actually burning energy.

Side note here, I recently read something that said that people who play chess burn like more calories than people who run. So think about that, like, moving our bodies is not the only way to burn energy. But movement is the way to metabolize this active energy.

Okay, so that’s reason number four why you can’t allow yourself to rest, because you’re stuck in that active response. And probably, there’s something preventing you from coming down out of that stress cycle, some something inside of you, or something outside of you that is doesn’t allow you to come down. And that’s where I would recommend working with a practitioner, who understands the nervous system, and understands how to know what state you’re in, to help meet you in your needs of that state. Because each state has different needs.

You are stuck in freeze response mode

Number five, and final reason why you can’t allow yourself to rest and this one’s going to sound a little counterintuitive, is that you’re actually stuck in a freeze response. Now, I hear what you’re saying, like, wait, if I’m in freeze response, isn’t that a form of rest? And my answer is, no, not really. Because what a freeze response is, is actually like holding energy, like in a box, so to speak. If we have all this active energy, but it’s overwhelming to us, then we just pack it away into a little box. But then we have to kind of use energy to keep the box closed.

So being in a freeze response, is actually requiring you to manage your energy, which requires energy. So yes, a freeze response looks like depression, often it looks like this shutdown, like, I have no motivation, I can’t do anything I just want to curl up in a ball. But it’s because the body has all of this active energy that it is storing away. And that is the definition of the freeze response. And it requires energy.

So in order to come out of that freeze response, the best resource for the freeze response is heat, like physical heat, putting heating pads on or drinking hot drinks, or eating soup or stews or sitting in the sun, like if any of these things if you’re like, oh my gosh, I love soup. I love sitting in the sun, I love getting in the hot tub. I love curling up in bed under a warm blanket. It probably means that likely you are in a freeze response. And your body is wanting to move toward that heat in order to come out of the freeze response.

But we have to be really careful when coming out of the freeze response. Because when we thought that cube of ice on the inside of that cube is all of the energy, all of that active energy that put us in the freeze response in the first place. So again, I recommend working with a practitioner. And you know, you need to like do this very gently with lots of support.

Yes, okay. So that’s the fifth reason you can’t let yourself rest is because you’re stuck in the freeze response. And it’s kind of the same as your rest isn’t restful, when you’re in that freeze response. When you sleep when you rest, your body is doing a lot of work on the inside. So it’s not actually very restful, which is why I love the work that I do. I love helping people slowly, with lots of support, come out of these freeze responses or come down off of that stress response, because it actually changes you. It legitimately helps you feel different in your body.

So speaking of the work that I do, I currently have one opening for private coaching. So if this episode or any of the other episodes have spoken to you, I would highly encourage you to go to my website Donita bremmer.com, and click on the button that says free call. Sign up for a free call, I think is what it says. And let’s just chat about where you are and what you need, whether you’re more in that active response or you’re more on that freeze response. And we can just see if coaching with me is even right for you. And it might not be but if you’re listening to this podcast and you’re enjoying it, then I think that leans more toward working with me would probably be right.

Schedule a free session!

Oura ring link

Link to the Saundra Dalton Smith/Goop article