Recognizing your value in stillness
by Juliet Lam Kuehnle
We have been conditioned to believe that resting means wasting time. Though both may feel passive, there is a crucial difference between restful activities and those that might qualify as wasting time. One way to discern between the two is to consider your energy — is the activity draining or replenishing?
We can be more intentional about restoring energy and choosing where and how to invest our time. The thoughtfulness of planning rest can help it feel more like true self-care, rather than something selfish or squandered. We often feel guilty about spending time for ourselves rather than knowing we are worthy of (and need!) rest.
Humans are not wired to be on-the-go or productive all the time, yet we wear busy-ness as a badge of honor in a society focused on output. Some people who are used to being on the grind might even feel intimidated by stillness. Slowing down means we experience thoughts or emotions, and this can be threatening if we feel ill-equipped to handle this.
It can also be helpful to take an honest assessment of whether you consider your worth to be tied to your achievement. Some people have a hard time considering their identity without productivity and need to learn to believe they have inherent value regardless.
One of the best forms of energy restoration is great sleep, according to local sleep expert and licensed psychologist Kristin Daley. “It is important to make sure that you establish a pattern to your day and night that allocates adequate time for sleep,” Daley says. “Sleep is an intensely vulnerable state, so it is essential that the place you sleep is one that affirms your sense of safety.” Daley notes there are three key senses that create sleep onset associations: scent, touch and sound. “Having a bed that is inviting (and made) helps set the stage for good rest, and you need to barricade your sleep environment from sources of unnecessary stress or disruption, such as TV, kids, pets and cellphones. Sleep is regulated through exposure to light during the day and dark at night, which means that your sleep environment should be absolutely dark, and you need to be mindful of light exposures during the one to two hours prior to sleep. Keeping the same wake time each day, regardless of when you fall asleep, will help perpetuate a pattern of sleep and wakefulness that reinforces healthy sleep.”
Just like the airlines implore: We have to put on our own oxygen masks before we can help others with theirs. Resting is a similar concept in that we must nourish ourselves in order to show up well. I invite you to give yourself permission to rest and to know your value in this stillness. SP
Juliet Kuehnle is the owner and a therapist at Sun Counseling and Wellness. The full interview of Kuehnle’s “Who You Callin’ Crazy?!” interview featuring Michelle Boudin can be found on Instagram @yepigototherapy or wherever you stream podcasts.
Juliet spoke with Michelle Boudin, reporter, freelance writer and SouthPark contributor. Below are excerpts from their interview, lightly edited.
Media journalism has looked incredibly different these last few years. And you can’t step away from it all — you are the news. What has your mental health journey during it been like?
There’s a lot. Everything I did for self-care was out the window. It’s hard because as reporters, we’re objective and not supposed to let emotions get to us. But, you have to be a human being. I’m really good at compartmentalizing, but at the end of the day, if I’m still not feeling it, it’s time to get out of the business. We’ve had a front row seat to everything going on. For the most part I’m even keel, which helps me do my job, but this has been unprecedented. There has been so much need and so many stories to tell to get to that need, so it’s also been rewarding.
Do you think the attitude around wellness in your industry is changing?
In media, we typically keep it to ourselves, but this couple of years has definitely been different and more to process. I have a rule with my colleagues/friends that we vent, let it out and move on. My response throughout the pandemic has been “I’m hanging in.” I’m going to be OK, but it’s real and I’m more comfortable saying that now.
What else has changed for you?
Three days a week, I’m on TV or on camera. I still have to ‘look a certain way,’ but I have let some things go. I was an avid reader before the pandemic. I needed total escapism, but I’ve not been able to focus since the pandemic. I also have had to give myself permission to slow down and rest. I used to be triple-booked and I was always hustling. I have to tell myself it’s OK if I didn’t do anything productive.