Why is it that some people seem so relaxed, while others seem so wound up? Stress, and the reduction of it, is a big thing in today’s society; from stress management courses to an Indian head massage, there’s nothing that “will power” and alternative medicine can’t offer you for a better life, apparently.
The opposite of stress, so it seems, is rest. Rest is interpreted to be a place where people do not have anything to be stressed over, where they are relaxed. A recent BBC article (see www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine) related the act of taking rest with our personal inner well-being, stating that “In the Rest Test people who had fewer hours of rest the previous day score lower on a well-being scale.... The relationship between rest and well-being is striking.”
But just what exactly is “rest”?
This is one of those wonderful questions that doesn’t have one correct answer, but will be different for each of us. Whether rest for you is sitting down quietly reading or listening to music, or walking or riding a bike out in the natural environment, or whether it is doing exercise down the gym, or sitting meditating, the point is that we must each make time in our schedule to rest—that is, if we care about our own inner well-being.
But is there anything specific or more that those who follow Christ can do to aid or increase their sense of rest and well-being?
Psalm 62:1–2 & 5-8 seems to link “rest” to having security in God. Why do you think there is this link? How does having God as a refuge help to relieve stress? What do these verses teach us about trying to cope with stress alone?
In Matthew 11:28–30, rest comes from drawing into the Divine presence, that is, coming to Christ. How, according to v29, can you have rest for your soul? What other stipulation is there for this rest in this passage? What do these verses teach us about trying to cope with stress alone?
To really relieve stress, to really gain a sense of rest, if you are one who follows Christ, you need God, and complete surrender to the Divine, you need quiet space to withdraw to that is away from the rush of life, just like Jesus himself did (see Luke 5:16) and away from whatever may be causing you stress.
So with this understanding you can start to live a life that does not get on top of you, nor does the situation you find yourself in overwhelm you, neither does your work load weigh you down. In essence, you can experience a stress-free life with a greater sense of rest, and therefore a greater sense of inner well-being.
To finish let me share just a few practical ways to relieve stress and gain rest:
• Prioritise—and be willing to change priorities as things arise.
• Talk things through with others.
• Take frequent short breaks to “step out” of what you are doing.
• When you have an opportunity to have a longer break, find somewhere to go where you can completely detach from what you have been doing.
May you live a life that has less stress and more rest.
May you know the deep Divine peace, which transcends comprehension
May you seek the refuge and presence of the Divine in your everyday life
And may you express that peace to those you meet day by day.
David Cole is the author of many spiritual books, including Mystic Path of Meditation: Beginning a Christ-Centered Journey, Passing the Harp: Four Celtic Allegories, and Celtic Prayers & Practices: An Inner Journey.