Learning to Rest

At the end of last year, I very nearly burnt out. As a GP with a bunch of other responsibilities, I was finding it really hard to switch off and allowed my work to encroach on other parts of my life. I got really tired and felt stretched beyond my capacity. I knew this because my body told me so, but I was also becoming less caring, less compassionate, less patient and less focussed.

 

Then I read a couple of books about rest and I remembered some things I had forgotten. When I was a boy, I never worked on a Sunday. I’m the son of a preacher-man and we never worked on a Sunday. We would spend time with our community, eat lunch together, go for a walk, play some games, maybe catch a movie, but there was no work – none. Rest, it turns out, is not only vital for the human body, but it is seriously good for the soul. It is also the greatest piece of resistance against the ‘system’ and the ‘ego’ that I know of.

 

I have remembered to rest and put some things in place to help me do so, and I have honestly never felt so well. I actively look forward to stopping and out of this place of rest, I have found I can flow into the rest of my week with so much more kindness and grace, without feeling overwhelmed. It has given me a new perspective on the rest of life and enabled me to function without much stress or deal with stress more holistically.

 

On a Saturday evening (just because this is the time that works best for us as a family), we turn off all screens and all emails. We don’t do any work – no homework, no work, no nothing. We try and keep any household chores to an absolute minimum and take time to be. No shopping (because we resist the narrative that says we don’t have enough), nothing strenuous – just what makes our souls happy – not in a hedonistic way, but in a restorative way, so that we can live from a place of life-giving, others-empowering love the rest of the week. We have developed patterns that make sense of who we are – lazy breakfasts, time with community, gentle walks, good food, board games, time – wasting time – together.

 

I know it’s really counter-cultural these days – we wear busyness like a badge of honour. But busyness is isolating us, stressing us out and killing us. I once heard a preacher-man say that only the devil is always busy, but God knows how to rest. Rest takes humility. It means recognising that life goes on without me. But it also recognises that who I am and what I do is important and so I need to be replenished in order to be healthy and well. I can’t tell you how many people have told me how well I look!

 

So, if you’ve forgotten how to stop, reflect, connect and be renewed, then I offer this to you as a gift. Take a day off – I mean a real good rest, once a week – it’s harder than you think…..but there is little else I know of that will bring fresh hope and life to every part of you.

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New Year’s Resolution

imagesI’ve been thinking about making a New Year’s Resolution. So, this year, taking my role as lead for health and well-being seriously, my resolution is simple. In 2016 I want to improve my well-being and encourage others to do the same.

 

The New Economics Foundation have done some amazing work on how we can improve our well-being. “NEF is the UK’s leading think tank promoting social, economic and environmental justice. Their aim is to imgrestransform the economy so that it works for people and the planet. The UK and most of the world’s economies are increasingly unsustainable, unfair and unstable. It is not even making us any happier – many of the richest countries in the world do not have the highest well-being.” Have a read about their incredible work (www.neweconomics.org).

 

NEF have come up with 5 simple ways to improve well-being and my New Year’s resolution is to use their 5 steps and blog about the effects I experience personally as a result. I hope that this will be replicated in my work as our team engages with communities. So, here are the steps:

 

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1) CONNECT – this year I am going to be more present. I have found that ridding myself of my

imagespersonal twitter account and spending less time on social media has already helped this. I am going to listen with attention and speak with intention. I am going to listen with attention to my wife, my children, my friends, my family and my patients (rather than assuming what they will say) and I am going to behold them, dig for the treasure in them and be grateful for them. I am also more well when I connect with God, who is love. For me, more than anything this means taking time to be still. Being part of a community, rather than moping around in self-isolation (a tendency of mine at times – surprising for an extreme extrovert!) is also key.

2) BE ACTIVE – This year we are launching a really exciting sports initiative in our local schools to imagesencourage our kids to have better health long into the future. I am going to continue running and swimming, but I will increase this to ensure I am being active on a daily basis.

imgres3) TAKE NOTICE – I have a painting on the wall in my consulting room (done by an amazing local artist) that has these words on it: “Take time to do what makes your soul happy.” I am going to feed my soul good things this year by noticing what is around me. I live in a world, surrounded by beauty – from tiny rare orchids to vast mountains, the sea and the night sky. I am going to notice this beauty more.

4) KEEP LEARNING – I already have some things booked in. I’m going on a refresher skiing course,images
before we take to the mountains in February. I am widening my culinary skills with some cooking lessons. I am re-learning how to arrange some pieces for our local choir. I am continuing to work with a life coach and the NHS leadership program. This will be a year in which I learn a lot! I love learning.

5) GIVE – At the beginning of every year, my wife and I review our finances and make sure that we are giving enough money away. We try to ensure that we give at least 15-20% of what we earn to various friends or charities. Money can have such a hold and I find as I earn more, it is easier to get sucked into an unhealthy imgresview of it. Money is just money. I am determined to have a relationship with it that is joyful and giving rather and anxious and hoarding. I love the phrase – “Live Generously”. I want to live in a way that gives of my time, skills, energy and resources without burning out in the process! My life coach has taught me well about boundaries – very empowering, as long as the motivation is to be able to give. It’s amazing how much a sense of giving/contributing to community and the world really improves our sense of well-being. It’s not an easy path. It’s all too easy to get one’s sense of self-esteem and self-worth by how much one gives, so I will try and remain honest about this.

So, if you want 2016 to be a year in which your well-being increases, why not try the 5 ways above? And if you fall over, get back up and keep walking!

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Healing our Corporate Soul

Tweet In my video blog about ‘Reimagining Health’, I talked about the fact that our well being is not and cannot be an isolated, individualistic experience. The truth is that we are part of a Corporate Body (that is a community of people with a physical environment in which we live) with a Corporate Soul [Continue Reading …]

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