My Auntie Anna passed away the day after Christmas, due to COVID. Three weeks following, COVID ripped my grandmother away from me. Seven days later, the heartbreak of losing my grandmother that tore me up, killed my grandfather.
I lost three of the most cherished people in my life, back-to-back, and you know what I did in response? I went to work. When I think about it today, I ask myself, are you freaking insane?
This week, I wanted to use this article for my first ‘Deep Thought’. With there being so much buzzing in the media, around Simone Biles choosing to take care of herself, I was brought to a very reflective space. I entered this same space, several weeks ago, when Naomi Osaka also chose herself, but I wasn’t able to set aside time to document my feelings around that personal display of self-love and preservation. Now that I have this platform, I feel like it’s the perfect place for me to share my thoughts with others, since most of the time, I’m alone, traveling for work, and without many moments to decompress through discourse.
This article isn’t about debating or criticizing the decisions made by the two young women highlighted above. My intention is to share from my heart, the feelings and thoughts that were triggered after seeing two phenomenal ladies basically say, I can (push through) because I have, but I won’t because I shouldn’t (dishonor my body/mind).
Again, I don’t want for this piece to be a cause for debate or criticism. But I DO encourage you all to navigate this text with the desire to find a connecting point, because I know it exists. At one point or another, we have all kept going when what we needed to do most, was rest. Whether due to exhaustion, grief, injury, illness, infirmity, stress, or the many other things that overwhelm or put strain on our person. Rest is a tool for rejuvenation and an act of self-care.
Why do we keep going?
For me, I kept going, after losing three family members in a month’s time, because my mind and body immediately switched into survival mode. I felt like my world had turned upside down. Not only had I experienced multiple losses, I was completely alone in Australia, under a hard 14-day quarantine, and without a family member/loved one to embrace or comfort me in-person. I said my last goodbyes to my grandparents over facetime and attended their funerals via zoom. For people I was so connected to, I felt totally disconnected in their transitioning process. I didn’t cry, but I knew I was in immense pain. I pushed through; half because of the encouragement from my grandparents who always told me to keep playing, the other half because I was trying to keep myself from falling into depression.
That wasn’t my first-time experiencing loss so close to home/me, but it was the first time I had to do so in that magnitude in such a short period of time. Prior to that, I had lost my father and my stepfather. Similar to this year, in that time, the only area in my life that I felt like I could control and would give me release, was tennis/work. So, I kept going. Reflecting on that time today, what my mind, body, and spirit needed more than anything, was rest.
But what do you do when you feel you can’t afford to rest? Be it, literally afford (financial), at the risk of losing/missing out on something, or at the expense of having to deal with the deep emotions that we’re intentionally masking or unhealthily coping through.
What is rest?
There is no one way to rest. What rest looks like for me, it may not look that way for you, you, you, or you. Rest is any action taken in effort to replenish and improve physical, mental, and/or emotional well-being. It can be anything from turning down weekend plans to stay home and relax, or taking a nature walk at some point in your day.
Whatever practices help you to recoup and reenergize before starting, throughout, or after finishing a day, do more of that! It will sustain you. You may not have the luxury (rest shouldn’t be a luxury, but that’s another conversation for another time) to be able to call out of work, go on a leave, take a vacation, or enjoy extended ME time,but you can and should find smaller ways to practice rest in your daily life.
Have you ever been “forced” to rest?
The first time that the choice to rest was my only option, was when I got injured. I’d played and continued to work through injury many times over, but in 2017 I’d literally ran myself into the ground. I was forced to sit with myself; and the thing about sitting with yourself, without distraction, is you can now see yourself for who and how you have been to yourself. The good, bad, ugly, sad, special, and hidden pieces all become magnified. It’s overwhelming, but it’s beautiful. I overstand why people refuse rest; when they’re more afraid of what will be revealed in the stillness with raw emotion, than what can come from barreling forward and burning out.
I didn't start my forced rest gracefully, but afterwhile, I mad a decision to use that time to be productive, evolve my perspective on a lot of things, and plant the seeds that made way for the blooming that has taken place over the years. One of the results of resting, is me being able to share my greatest tragedies, losses, and failures with the same pride I do my successes, wins, and celebratory moments.
Life is a rollercoaster ride. Although we are strapped in, we have the option to unbuckle, hop off, regroup, then hop on again.
That is why I’m a huge proponent of rest. Easier said than done, I know it’s even more beautiful when you choose rest for yourself than when life chooses it for you.
The benefits of allowing ourselves to rest?
My thoughts around this particular question, are direct results of how I felt when Naomi and Simone shared their decisions. Each one, teach one. Those very public and transparent displays have served as models to the athletic community and world at large, of the value and power that comes from caring for self. Those ‘simple’ acts of selfishness remind me of a quote from Marianne Williamson’s, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of "A Course in Miracles"
Whereas Ms. Williamson was speaking directly about how letting your power and light shine, inspires others to do the same; in a world where we are conditioned and encouraged to grind, since elementary school, letting people see you choose rest will inspire others to rest as well. And when we rest, we rise.
When we rest our minds and bodies become clearer and stronger. We reduce stress, enhance decision making, increase productivity, improve mood, and allow ourselves to show up full in all areas of our life. Do it purposefully.
Practice healthy habits, take deep breaths, identify small things to be grateful for, be kind to ourselves, and SLEEP! That’s where we start.
Even after seeing the wealth that comes from resting, after my injury, I can admit, that even with all of that valuable information, I didn't do my best job resting or listening to my body after the loss of my aunt and grandparents. What I can give myself credit for, is taking healthier steps in my process, by utilizing resources like therapy and grief counseling. I've learned there's no perfect way to rest, but I want to aim to improve and incorporate more rest into my life everyday. I'll know I'm doing it right for me, by listening to my body. Because the most important assignment we all have, is taking care of ourselves first, before we push ourselves beyond our limits for others or at the expense of our well-being.
Next week I’m going to share some practices that can help in developing the habit of putting yourself at the top of your priority list. My hope, from that article, is that you’re encouraged to identify the things that are healthy and keep you fresh. When you discover those things, whether it’s meditation or going to sleep at a set time every night, you have to be relentless in taking care of yourself. It shouldn’t be something you negotiate. It’s a must. Do more of what fills you up and makes you feel happy, until it becomes a habit.
From the desk of Sloane Stephens: You owe this world nothing. But what you owe to yourself is to show up your best at every turn, and if that means you resting. . .REST! You don’t want to wait until your body forces you to rest, just like you shouldn’t wait for the check engine light to take your car to the mechanic. So, practice resting daily. Listen to your body, then take care of it.
When was a time that you kept going when you probably would’ve been better off resting? If it’s hard for you to choose rest, why is that? Is rest encouraged in your culture/upbringing?
Hey Sloane Hive,
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