Rest is a Productive Activity
Updated: Apr 12, 2021
(Content warning: flashing/vibrating image)
I want to share a little bit about how ADHD affects my brain and my body.
Over the past two weeks, I have started writing a dozen different blog topics, which I abandoned without finishing. Okay, I finished one about entropy but it was a bit dark and nihilistic, which maybe represents how I was feeling last week, and perhaps it is for the best that I didn't publish anything with such a funky energy. I wrote for several hours almost every evening. Some days I chose to forego my yoga practice because "I gotta write this blog!" and then never actually finished writing a blog.
Now my back hurts. My brain hurts. I didn't notice, though, at least not right away.
The brief videos I've posted each represent whole weekend afternoons of recording and deleting and starting over. I put in at least six hours of time to record, edit, and publish a 10-minute video on YouTube, partly because I get so A-N-X-I-O-U-S that in my first few takes I bob around like a bird, I forget words, I talk to myself, and I make zero eye contact with my camera. I only start to feel comfortable after about an hour of practice. I want everything to come out perfectly, but I am so far from that mark. And you know what? Nobody else cares but me.
In these frantic moments, I am not a human being; I am a human doing, who has forgotten what she learned from her yoga practice. And you know what else? That's okay. It happens. That's the practice. What is not okay, though, is that I have not been giving myself space for rest when my body says I need it. In this effort to produce, I am wearing out my parts faster than they can be fixed or replaced. I am not even allowing my body to be heard when it complains.
Me: *keeps typing*
Body: BACK PAIN!
Me: *keeps typing*
Body: BACK PAIN, BACK PAIN, BACK PAIN!
Me: ... *searches internet for dank memes about back pain*
Body: Now I really need to pee, c'mon!
Me: *squeezes thighs together, keeps typing*
When I am hyperfocused on an activity that I enjoy, or that feels important to me, I lose touch with the signals inside my body for many hours at a time. I don't know I'm hungry, or that I have to pee, or that my back hurts. I don't know that I am getting cranky or tired. I have no idea what time it is. I tend not to hear the signals from my body, and when I do, I don't always know what they mean. Whether it's because I am neurodivergent or because of trauma, or maybe something else, I am very immature in my body awareness. My ability to recognize emotions and internal feelings is underdeveloped; I have a hard time naming what I am feeling, and it's not for lack of the proper vocabulary.
This means that I am not aware when my body is, like, literally SCREAMING at me for attention. For rest. For a potty break, or a corn muffin. I have chronic back pain, partly from carrying so much tension over the last four decades because when my body was asking for rest I didn't hear it.
My ADHD brain is not entirely to blame, and my story is far from uncommon. We also live under the oppression of colonial values such that our worth is tied to our productivity, and rest is not considered a productive activity. "Doing" is more important than "being." This is all bullsh*t, of course. In fact, rest is actually a very productive activity. When the body is at rest there is a lot happening, it's just not external, and it's not making someone else rich, so it doesn't meet our culture's definition of productivity. I don't know who needs to hear this, but rest is not something you need to earn, and resting a tired body and mind is not lazy.
A body at rest is in healing mode. Cells are buzzing with curative energy and there is focused movement throughout the community of organisms that animate your physical form. I watched Mary Poppins a lot as a kid, so I often imagined what it would be like to clean my whole room in just seconds with that kind of fast-motion magic, everything flying through the air and settling into its proper place with just a swish of a finger. This Mary Poppins house-cleaning magic is what is happening inside of your body when you take it out of "doing" and drop into "being." Your body's community of cells is doing all of this magical work without any conscious effort on your part. I think this is amazing!
I love knowing that there is a whole little magical world hustling and bustling inside of me, scrubbing my insides clean and putting my scattered energy back where it belongs. This little world is inside of you, too. You are a vast community of organisms, all communicating through your nervous system to maintain order between all of your organs and tissues and bones, just to keep you going another day. Take a sec to give your body a loving pat or wrap your arms around your shoulders, and thank all of the little living parts that work in unity to keep you alive. They deserve love! They are doing a great job! And hey, take it from me, you deserve love! You are doing a great job!
Through my own yoga practice, and with encouragement and love from family and friends, I am slowly learning to respect my body and listen to its needs. Yoga helps (a lot) because it is the practice of connection. Yoga encourages me to think about how I am this whole community of energetic bits--- this collection of tiny living beings whose entire purpose is to keep me alive so I can share that fuzzy, buzzy healing energy right back with my loved ones. I know that I need to rest to give my cells time to recharge, and if there are days I can't do it for me, I might do it for you. Or I might not rest when I need to because some days are harder than others.
It can be hard to make time for rest and I don't always feel like I have the space for it. I tell my brain that I cannot rest now, I am too busy blogging about how important it is to rest, or I am looking at pics of "chonky woofers" and collecting dank memes about existential dread and cats with threatening auras. It's okay. I just keep practicing.
So, yes, making time and space for rest takes practice. Your body rejoices in whatever moments you give it, so don't be afraid to start small and let your resting practice evolve with you; just start somewhere and see where it goes.
If you are not sure where to start and would like to practice with me, check out my newest video where I share my favorite resting pose, called Balasana or Child's Pose.