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Rest is Not a Luxury

Three Steps to Rethink Your Relationship with Rest

Rest is not a luxury. Rest is a necessity for peak performance and overall mental health.

High-performance sports require immense mental focus, concentration, and motivation, commodities that can be difficult to come by in our fast paced lives with many pressures, commitments, and distractions. Lack of rest leads to mental fatigue, decreased cognitive function, and impaired decision-making skills, all critical to high level competition and achievement. Ample, quality rest and recovery helps athletes maintain their mental acuity, emotional well-being, and drive, leading to improved performance on the field and some left in the tank for life outside of their competitive endeavors.

I know that you know this information already, which begs the question: Why are we so neglectful of rest and recovery, despite our knowledge that rest is supportive of our goals? The simple answer is that many of us, especially athletes, have an unhealthy relationship with rest due to a warped mindset that has been reinforced through the messages we have received since childhood. In order for the integration of rest and recovery to feel authentic and for you to be able to rest without feeling guilty or lazy - you need to evaluate and take steps to change that mindset.

So, grab an notebook, the notes page on your phone, or your computer and let's unpack this. Here are my three steps to rethink your relationship with rest:

Step #1 - Evaluate your current beliefs about rest and explore how those beliefs have been reinforced over your lifetime.

Take a moment to ask yourself the following four questions:

(1) What are my assumptions about rest? Or otherwise stated, what do I believe about rest?

(2) What beliefs do I hold about productivity? Are they in conflict with my beliefs about rest?

(3) How do my cultural or societal beliefs about rest influence my personal beliefs?

(4) Do I have any negative beliefs or assumptions about people who prioritize rest and why?

Step #2 - Explore how your current beliefs, along with the associated emotions and behaviors affect you.

Consider the following four questions:

(1) How are my beliefs about rest impacting my mental and physical health?

(2) How do I feel when I rest? Do I feel guilty, relaxed, refreshed, or something else?

(3) How do my beliefs about rest affect my relationships with others? Do I feel pressure to constantly be productive or available to others?

(4) What would be the effect of changing my thinking surrounding rest?

Step #3 - Demonstrate to ourselves that rest and recovery ARE NOT LUXURIES, but NECESSITIES for achieving peak performance, physically and mentally.

Now that we have gained insight into our current beliefs, we can begin to develop new beliefs about rest that feel genuine and authentic. We cannot just lie to ourselves about the way we feel and expect ourselves to change. We have to take time to reconstruct our thinking so it can be in greater alignment with our values - so we truly believe the change in our thinking.

It is critical that through this step, you stop seeing your recovery as negotiable and rather respect your recovery and prioritize it the way you prioritize foul shots, back squats, sprint drills, batting practice, stick skills, distance runs, or any other sports specific or general training practices. An approach to developing this "rest is a necessity" mindset, is to drawl a mental connection between the practice of resting and your values as an athlete.

Ask yourself, what do I value?

  • Longevity

  • Discipline

  • Teamwork

  • Resilience

  • Growth

  • Health

  • Passion

  • Leadership

Or maybe others I have not listed. Now take a moment to make a clear argument for how having a strong rest and recovery practice will support your values as an athlete.

For example, if you value longevity an argument may be:

"When my body is constantly pushed beyond its limits, it becomes more susceptible to sprains, strains, and other injuries. Rest and recovery provide an opportunity for my body to heal and reduce the risk of overuse injuries caused by repetitive motions and excessive strain, which will allow me to continue to engage in my sport and other movement I enjoy throughout my life."

Or if I value you teamwork:

"I want to be able to show up for my teammates as the best version of myself, but when I am not well rested I am not the patient and focused teammate I want to be."

Notice that the argument is phrased in the first person, so it is personal - it is about your agency as an individual, what YOU can do to support your values and moreover, your goals as an athlete (which hopefully are also in alignment with your values, but that's for another blog).

Attaching rest to your values and taking ownership of the role it takes in living in alignment with you values, moves rest and recovery out of the dreaded "shoulds", which are often driven by external expectations and pressures, and into the "essentials" category.

I hope this exercise helped you gain insight and will invoke motivation to shift your attitudes about rest. Next month, May 2023, please return to the Cognitive Pursuits blog for an article on how to put your new mindset to action by evaluating your current rest routine.

This three step exercise is heavily based in the principles of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and reflective of the way I work with my athlete client's to improve their mental health and performance. If you’re interested in learning more about how Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and if it may be right for you, please click the link here to schedule a free 15-minute conversation.

Be well,

Meghan Morley, LPC

Owner & Licensed Professional Counselor

Cognitive Pursuits LLC


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