Since my baseline took a nosedive following the Covid vaccinations, I’ve had to tighten up on my daily routine, to keep my energy more safely within my smaller energy envelope. My afternoon rest has become an even more crucial part of that.
Even when I was relatively well, my afternoon rest was pretty non-negotiable, but now it’s an absolute must that I take myself to bed for at least an hour and lie in a quiet, dark room.
In the past my afternoon rest time didn’t necessarily include much quality rest. Often, I’d just relax with my kindle. I was a little better at it when I was in Spain, as I liked to lie in the sun for 10-15 minutes of vitamin D therapy, and I would deliberately not read then, to keep stimulation low and kills two birds with one stone.
Now, I have to make sure that my afternoon rest starts with minimal stimulation, quality rest.
I do this with a 10-minute meditation with my heated eye mask on, lying on my back in corpse pose, with my blinds and curtains shut. During this time, I aim to really relax and let go.
I set my timer and start by focusing on my breathing. I try to passively watch my in-breath at my belly, then focus on letting go on the out-breath. Sometimes I say the words ‘letting go’ or ‘surrender’ silently in my head as I breathe out. If my body is particularly tense, I might take my attention slowly through my body, focusing on different parts of my body one at a time, letting go with the out-breath. I usually start at my feet and work up to my head. If I’m finding it difficult to let go, I try to imagine that body part inflating as I breathe in and deflating as I breathe out.
Once I’m feeling as though I’ve started to relax to my body, I refocus on my breathing. Once again aiming to passively watch my in-breath, but this time aiming to slow and extend the out-breath. Sometimes I can find myself being too deliberate with this and taking control of the in-breath as well. When this happens, I aim to let the out-breath just happen until right at the end of it, then I aim to extend it for just a fraction of a second longer. This tends to help until I can slow and extend the out-breath with more ease, keeping the in-breath passive.
If I get bored of this practice, I add a bit of light visualization to it. I imagine myself in a kind of healing scanner. The scanner starts below me and as I breathe in, it’s drawn from my heels up to the top of my head, shining healing light through my body as it goes. As I breathe out, the scanner moves to being above me, I take control of its speed and drawn it slowly back to my feet, the healing light shining down into my body.
Another way I deal with boredom is to change my practice up a bit. Some days I just do a bit of mindful breathing, watching my experience of my breath in my body without taking any control whatsoever. I usually aim for 7 sets of 7 breaths. If I’m relaxed enough, this usually takes up most of the 10 minutes, then I introduce the scanner for the last few breaths.
Occasionally I listen to a guided breathing meditation. There’s a very simple 8-minute breathing meditation by Jack Kornfield on insight timer that really helped me relax and let go, the other day.
Afterwards, if I’m feeling sleepy, I set my alarm and allow myself to nap for up to 40 minutes. If I’m not feeling sleepy, I might take a little time to just let my mind wonder, aiming to let it drift without getting caught up in any particular thought. Other times I use this post-meditation time to visualize something pleasant in my future.
When I find my mind getting too busy and risking taking me out of my relaxed state, I turn to my kindle. I still lie in a quiet dark room, to make the most of this relaxation time, but I distract my mind with my relaxing reading.
I usually rest in bed for an hour and a half total, before getting up again. Often, I then do 20 minutes painting (by numbers), which keeps me in that relaxed state for a bit longer.
By tightening up this rest and keeping to my routine, I’ve been feeling better a lot more of the time. There’s been less tension, heaviness and pain in my body and my brain chemistry has lifted, making joy accessible again. Even though I still can’t really do very much, good energy management including this non-negotiable quality rest keeps my suffering to a minimum.
How do you include quality rest in your day?
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