Today, my friend Pam Farrel — recovering sleep-deprived leader — joins us to talk about struggling with weariness and choosing to rest.
Some seasons in life are demanding. We long for R…E…S…T! However, we rarely allow ourselves the luxury of a nap. At the end of one of these hectic whirlwinds, I knew I would need some R and R, so I planned a kayak trip to Alaska. I oversaw the trip, so I planned to go to bed later and rise earlier than the group—not a plan for rest!
One way I knew my lack of rest was detrimental to my health was my weight gain (despite my physically active lifestyle) and the higher cortisol levels in my lab tests (elevated levels of cortisol also leads to weight gain). However, my biggest clue that I needed to adjust my sleep plan (or rather “lack of sleep” plan) came on day one of our kayak adventures. Each day, we gave women an hour of solitude with God. On day one, as I laid looking at the clouds in the sunshine and fresh air while praying for my future, I fell asleep and woke myself up with my own snoring!
Of all the good health choices, the toughest (wise) health choice for me is REST! Getting in those 7-8 hours a night seems to be one of the most difficult goals to achieve! When I have something I need improvement on, I research and then write about it! In my book, 10 Best Decisions a Woman Can Make, I quote Dr Archibald Hart’s research on adrenaline from his book, Adrenaline and Stress.
Dr. Hart wraps up some words of wisdom that can extend many of our lives: “To avoid cardiovascular disease and other stress-related disorders, it is not enough to eat the right foods and keep cholesterol low. This is important, but it is not enough! It is not enough to exercise regularly and even take regular vacations. To protect yourself . . . you must learn how to switch off your production of adrenaline when it is no longer needed, and stop using it for non-emergency life situations . . . It means controlling the problem at its source.”
Dr. Hart encourages some simple but practical methods for curbing the overuse of adrenaline: sleep 8-10 hours a night and learn to manage your negative, driving emotions (so next time someone says “Chill out!” take them up on their offer and do it). Exercise and a daily time to unwind will help you manage your addiction to adrenaline overload. He also recommends planning recovery time into your schedule after high-adrenaline-use times.”
In 10 Secrets of Living Smart, Savvy and Strong, I quote Eve Van Cauter, professor of medicine at the University of Chicago, who said, “Since the brain is fuelled by glucose, we suspect it seeks simple carbohydrates when distressed by lack of sleep. One study found that the less people slept, the more they weighed.”
My own doctor, Mark Stengler, challenged me to look at what time of day I slept. (Yes, God made day and night, so it is better if you can hit the hay well before midnight and get in a solid 7-9 hours of sleep and rise around sunrise). I grew up on a farm, so I knew that the rhythm of winding down at sunset and getting up at sunrise was a healthy one.
I now own a fitbit, so I can track my sleep hours and patterns. My fitbit also has an alarm set each evening (that also runs an alert on my computer screen). The alarm reads: TIME TO PREPARE FOR BED, which means “Pam, shut off your screens!”
To sleep well, it helps to pull away from all the electronic stimulus (computer, TV, smart phone) and unwind in a quiet, darker room. A warm shower or bath can help calm your heart and life, too. An interesting study was also released that says while it is NOT good for your sleep cycle to read on a screen (like a Kindle) late at night, reading a good old -fashioned paper paged book can produce better rest!
One of the books now on my bedside table is my friend, Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith’s Sacred Rest. As I was working my way through chapter one, I highlighted, starred, asterisked and dog-eared a page that has this simple, thought provoking quote:
“Sleep is not rest. As different parts of an intricate system, sleep and rest are designed to work together to ensure every part of you has a way to regenerate and be restored.”
What? Sleep is not rest? Dr. Dalton-Smith had me intrigued. I pressed on consuming page after page of Sacred Rest, knowing I was in hot pursuit of R…E…S…T! While I underlined my way through Sacred Rest, knowing I held the answer to my weariness in my hands, I also was sent a link through my social media to The Rest Quiz, designed by Dr. Dalton-Smith, that helps you identify which area of rest you currently need the most. Dr. Dalton-Smith suggests there are 7 areas of rest that we all need to be well and healthy:
My husband and I both took the quiz, had a very deep, honest, helpful conversation, and set some goals to help each of us gain more of the kind of rest we each needed. This expanded my comprehension that our exhaustion is much more than a sleep issue, it is a rest issue! Dr. Dalton-Smith is so sensitive to the real life of a busy, productive person that she also offers a Lifestyle Upgrades For Busy Adults video series and a 30 Day Rest Challenge that really breaks down these calming concepts into bite-sized pieces you can learn and then apply to actually help CHANGE your habits so you not only get rest—you keep it!
For me, if I write down my “Tomorrow’s To-Do” list, that helps me release my lengthy list of unfinished work to God’s care. But the critical component for me is prayer. If I end my day praising God and praying through my life, it is as if God is cradling me in His arms and I can REST.
Psalm 62:1 says, Truly my soul finds rest in God…
In 10 Best Decisions a Woman Can Make, I cite some interesting studies: “Medical science has even linked the power of prayer to patient longevity and recovery. Dr. Dale A. Matthews reviewed 212 studies and found that three-fourths showed a positive correlation between religious commitment and good health. In a San Francisco study, 393 patients were divided into two groups. Half were prayed for and half were not. No one knew which group they were placed in. Those who were prayer recipients had fewer health complications. Recently, while I was catching a few moments of a TV doctor’s show I learned that blood pressure is lowered in 40% of the population that prays and believe in that “higher power.”
Give yourself a break and do one of these things for some self-care:
- Pick up Sacred Rest and beginning reading
- Permit yourself a nap, a bath, or a walk in nature
- Pray and release the pressure and stress to God’s care
So what has been the result of my more “restful” lifestyle? I have dropped nearly 50 pounds and have kept it off for the last seven years. But I know it is a daily choice to rest, really rest, in my Creator and His way of living life. Yes, I recommend the “Napping Diet Plan”! Snooze—better yet, REST—your way to better health and a thinner you!
Pam Farrel is a recovering sleep-deprived leader, international jet lagged speaker and author of over 45 books including 7 Simple Skills for Every Woman: Success in Keeping It All Together; Devotions for Women on the Go, and Discovering Hope In the Psalms: A Creative Bible Study Experience. She and her husband Bill Co-Direct Love-Wise ministry.