In our busy culture, taking time to rest can seem selfish or irresponsible. Declaring that I’m not free to hang out with someone only to go home and change into my yoga pants for a quiet night of reading or Netflix consumption can oftentimes bring up feelings of guilt. Can you relate? There are a few mental steps I go through to decided if I really should have said yes to that social engagement or if I should free myself from the guilt of saying no.
For one, I am an introvert. Everyone needs down time and even extroverts need alone time, but specific for introverts is the need to have regular alone time for the sake of mental clarity and energy restoration. For this reason, I intentionally purpose to keep at least one evening per week free of any commitments. Occasionally, I can spend time with John or an intimate girlfriend on this evening because these people understand that sitting and watching a TV show or just having a quiet dinner and going for a walk is all I’m up for.
Another thing I have to consider when dealing with the misplaced guilt of taking time off is the confidence and maturity of “no”. One of the biggest themes I preach to my clients is the importance of stress management. When I realize that not taking time once a week for unscheduled time would leave me irritated, tired, and possibly unstable both physically and emotionally, the decision is settled. Why would I cheat myself and my loved ones out of the best I have to offer? Taking time to care for myself is paramount to modeling the kind of life I hope my clients can buy into. It also frees me up to work hard when it’s time to get things done and there’s not space for rest.
With the responsibility of discerning when it’s time to say no, however, is also a responsibility to do so delicately. This is when I find that keeping my unexciting plans private sometimes spares friends’ feelings. I can either explain this whole philosophy every time, apologetically, or I can have the confidence to believe that when I say I’m not free, I’m legitimately expected to be somewhere else: home. And let me take advantage of this space to make clear that my unscheduled evening is separate from a normal Sabbath day, during which I put work down for the entire day. My unscheduled evening is usually on a work night, which makes it easier to be at home since part of Sabbathing can be enjoying community.
This leads me to the last thing I will say about introverts. Sometimes we do need to stretch ourselves to say yes to interpersonal interactions. I’m frequently tempted to take a second or third night off in a given week to just be alone and quiet, and there are some weeks where this is perfectly acceptable for some. But I know that if I do not regularly push myself to interact with others, I’ll lose another piece of my wellness, which is wholeness and refreshment through community. Just as I purpose to keep one evening per week free, I also purpose to making plans with someone on Friday nights. Once I’m engaged in conversation with that person, I’m always glad I made it a priority and I’m filled up in a different way.
So deciding what rest looks like to you is about balance. It’s about realizing whether you are an introvert or an extrovert. It’s about deciding that you’ll make time for yourself to be both quiet and engaged, depending on your needs. It’s about having the confidence to decide that taking care of yourself is mature and important to those in your life. And often, it’s simply about taking a deep breath and enjoying an evening off...because as far as everyone else is concerned, you’re not available.