Young woman silhouette practicing yoga on the sea beach at sunset

Finding Rest Instead of Fearing Rest

April 2023

By Ashleigh Boyce, High School Teacher, Fitness Instructor, Coach


In a society where we feel like we are constantly on a hamster wheel chasing after the next opportunity, working through the next challenge in our career, or finding our healthiest self it may be hard to know when or how to step off and find time to pause and rest. For those of you hardwired to be constantly on the go it can be difficult to put your foot on the brake and slow yourself down. Experiences, opportunities, or growth can be things we are afraid of missing out on if we take that moment to stop. The fear of rest can be one that keeps us going long after there is no more fuel to keep us moving and one that could potentially be more detrimental to our health than we think.

With self care plans being the latest fad it is important to remember that our individual plan doesn’t need to include projects we need to be “doing” but instead just focus on “being.” Our self care plans are often sabotaged by our need to accomplish something; whether that be reading a book, booking a massage or completing a hobby. Self care can simply be just taking time to sit down and breathe. Establishing a routine for self care can be helpful to those of us who work well with structure and know our schedules require planning. It is important to keep in mind that implementing time to rest daily or weekly can help us avoid hitting the point of burnout. It is equally important to be flexible and know that we don’t have to wait for an allotted time or space to take rest when it may be needed outside of those planned times. Sometimes schedules shift but that does not mean our rest should take a back seat or be avoided. We may not be able to control what happens around us, but we can take moments of rest to control what happens within us. Taking a pause to rest during the unexpected moments can help us to slow down and assess our situations.

Fatigue and burnout are two conditions that can significantly impact us if not addressed. According to the World Health Organization, burnout is a syndrome conceptualized as a result of chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions, which include: feelings of exhaustion, increased mental distance from one’s job and reduced professional efficiency. Not only can burnout and fatigue affect our mental and emotional health in the moment but they can have long term effects on our physical health as well. Our experiences and our responses to these experiences can shape the way our nervous systems react and can be the difference between maintaining a good overall quality of life or contributing to growing health challenges.

Providing our bodies time to rest is incredibly important in rewiring, balancing, and calming our often overstimulated nervous systems. Activities like meditation, breathwork techniques, and yoga practices (such as yoga nidra or restorative yoga) can help us to retrain the nervous system. For some people finding time for these practices can be easier, while others may find difficulty delegating specific time for rest due to overwhelming schedules or task lists. Learning where, when and how we can utilize these tools is a learning process.

While some organizations and corporations offer workplace wellness programs providing employees with plans and services to help find time to rest and promote self care throughout the work day and beyond, many still do not. Workplace wellness programs can provide an opportunity for organizations to build trust and a rapport with their employees, as well as combat workplace burnout and develop healthier employees, which in turn can increase professional productivity. If your workplace has a wellness program, consider exploring your options, and if not, consider approaching them about introducing one.

Finding rest in regards to workplace wellness is important, but it is also important when facing fatigue in our workout routines. A toxic but prevalent message in some corners of the fitness world include phrases like “no days off” or “rest is for the weak.” Sticking to fitness routines is important for accomplishing goals and for the growth we’d like to make according to those goals. Hard work, consistency, and dedication is necessary when we are working towards a goal, but finding opportunities to rest our body can arguably be as important. According to Pete McCall, a health and fitness expert and ACE personal trainer, days of rest allow the body to repair tissues damaged from the mechanical stresses of exercise. Resting also allows your circulatory system to perform its job of removing metabolic byproducts in the muscle cells and deliver oxygen and nutrients to help repair damaged tissues. Overtraining, with extremely limited periods of rest, can impact our output during our workouts, our goals of weight loss or muscle gain, and can have negative effects on our overall well-being. Rest days can help us to not only replenish our glycogen levels and avoid muscular fatigue, but to reset, check-in on, and restore our mental and emotional wellness.

Resting can include actions that help us explore ways to restore, or it can simply include the act of “being” which can include doing absolutely nothing, listening to music, or even spending time in nature. When we put an emphasis on taking rest we are also influencing those around us and our relationships. Our mental, emotional and physical health is important to our well-being and how we function throughout our daily lives. When we take care of ourselves by resting when we need it, we show children and the people around us that self care and down time is something we should consider vital to our well being. Our emphasis on rest time will create an impact on future generations to help better manage their nervous systems, emotions, and actions.

If you’re looking for ways to help you rest or restore, try one of the tools listed below; each can have incredible benefits on the nervous system. It is important to always consult your physician to decide which tools would be most appropriate, healthy, and beneficial for you and your body. Exploring different modalities can help us to find what can be most manageable and enjoyable in our own lives.


Many of us go through our days taking short, shallow breaths that do not use the full range of our diaphragm and can ultimately have a negative impact on our body. Our breath has a lot of power to help balance our sympathetic (fight or flight) and parasympathetic (rest or digest) systems, as well as help tone our vagus nerve, which is one of our main nerves that connects the brain to the body. Breathwork practices like Ujjayi breathing, deep belly breathing, and techniques that place emphasis on the exhale (often tied to our parasympathetic nervous system), can be really helpful in calming and restoring the body. Exploring ways to breathe properly and fully can help not only our vagal tone but also our emotional responses, respiratory wellness, and our performance at work or in athletics. (If you are interested in learning more about the importance of breathwork, you should check out the incredibly informative book Breath by James Nestor).

Yoga Nidra

Yoga nidra, sometimes referred to as yogic sleep, is a yoga practice that brings you into a meditative state on the brink between awake/aware and asleep. In this practice you are guided into a calming state that has an effect on your nervous system, your brain waves, and overall relaxation. According to Ram Jain, the founder of Arhanta Yoga Ashrams and Arhanta Yoga Online Yoga Academy, yoga nidra is an ancient technique where the practitioner enters the deep states of conscious relaxation and is a systematic practice of moving awareness from our external world to our inner world. In yoga nidra the body is guided into a state of relaxation, but the consciousness is kept awake and aware. Yoga nidra has benefits, like many tools, to help relax the nervous system, but can also have an effect on our emotional well-being and self-awareness.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Progressive Muscle Relaxation or PMR, is a great tool to help increase mind-body awareness and the release of tension in the body. PMR is a relaxation technique where one is guided through a series of tensing and relaxing actions within the body. The body scan may begin at the feet and work up through the body or at the crown of the head and work down through the body. Some forms of PMR are more general, moving from the head down into the upper body and eventually lower body and others are more specific, starting from the pinky toe of the right foot, moving through all the toes, and eventually up through various muscle groups and body parts. In PMR you may begin by tensing a body part (squeezing a tight fist) to invite a gentle and mindful tension, and then slowly release the tension. This helps to develop our awareness of how the body holds tension, where it holds most, and how it feels to relax the body.

Restorative Yoga

There are many different forms of yoga including power yoga, vinyasa flows, gentle flows and yin yoga flows. Differing from many of those, our restorative yoga practice aims for total relaxation of the body. Restorative yoga can be done with an emphasis on one or two specific poses or a string of poses that allow the body to be supported and relaxed. Practitioners may utilize blocks, straps, bolsters, and blankets to support the body as much as possible to allow for deep relaxation. Breathwork can help to aid in restorative yoga postures to settle deeper into a relaxed state. The goal of restorative yoga is for a full body, mind and soul relaxation.


Meditation can often be misconstrued as a practice of completely clearing the mind, but meditation is more so a practice of focusing on one specific thing. In meditation we can withhold judgment of our “monkey mind,” take inventory of what may come up, and then let it go without attachment. Many of us come into a state of meditation without even realizing it. Daydreaming is a form of meditative state, as well as a focus on breathwork. Meditation can be done seated or lying down, at home or at work, by ourselves or with others. There are many different meditations which can include: loving-kindness meditations, guided meditations, movement meditations, mantra meditations, or visual meditations but there are many more. Developing a meditation practice includes finding the type of practice and developing a routine (setting a time, space, focus) that works best for you. Meditation has a positive effect on the nervous system, on our blood pressure, and even on our brain waves.

Finding rest may be something that feels uncomfortable for many of us who are accustomed to constantly being on the go. It can also be uncomfortable for those of us who have experienced trauma or are struggling with mental health challenges. Quiet, restful moments often allow us to explore feelings and thoughts or emotions that can come up and if we fear them or find them to be uncomfortable or unwanted, it can deter us from finding those moments. Our restful moments have the capacity to help us explore ourselves more deeply, reach our fitness goals, and can help us improve our overall quality of life. While rest may not be our favorite activity and may not be within our comfort zone, it has benefits that truly are worth the discomfort.

Don’t fear rest, find rest.



Jain, R. (2020). What is Yoga Nidra: The True Benefits and Benefits Revealed. Arhanta Yoga.

McCall, P. (2018). 8 Reasons to Take a Rest Day. ACE Fitness.

World Health Organization. (2019). Burn-out an “occupational phenomenon”: International Classification of Diseases.


Ashleigh is a diehard Jersey girl and health enthusiast. Ashleigh grew up as a three sport athlete and currently is a high school health and PE teacher, as well as a fitness instructor and lacrosse coach. Ashleigh came into yoga after two knee surgeries and is a firm believer in finding contentment within our yoga practice as well as outside of it. She believes we should be proud of each step of our journey, enjoying the growth process throughout it, having fun, and not being fearful of challenges. Ashleigh’s love of books, laughing, fitness and hard work along with her light, fun energy will bring you a flow that challenges you physically, inspires you mentally and encourages you spiritually.