Rain and exhaustion

“Fucking hell!” I had just got my third flat tyre in less than 24 hours. It was raining and I sought shelter under a pedestrian bridge along the river Schelde just outside Gent, Belgium. I was soaking wet and even though it was not so cold, my fingers were stiff. To change the inner tube of my bicycle was a difficult effort.

I had been cycling and hiking for almost three months and now I was heading north. The night before, I slept in my tent next to an airport just outside of Paris. It was raining all night and when I packed my tent it was wet. The rain carried on as I continued my trip. When I had been on the road for a few hours, I got two flat tires within a couple of minutes of biking. After that I decided to cycle all the way to Gent – a distance of almost 300 kilometres – without sleeping during the coming night.

Finally some rest!

I knew it was going to be tough and when I crossed the border of France and Belgium after midnight, I was indescribably tired. Although the landscape was quite flat (especially in comparison to the Central Massif, which I passed a couple of months earlier) I was both physically and mentally tired. And still, my experience connected to all endurance challenges is that fatigue and energy come and go. After the last puncture was repaired, I felt strong and powerful and cycled the last short distance to central Gent.

When I arrived at my destination, my hosts Marcus and Carol (whom I know from EuroLife) treated me like a king. They run a house for workshops and meetings in the centre of Gent – Aanaajaanaa. I crawled into a warm bathtub, got a cup of hot tea and a couple of my favourite cookies: stroopwafels! After a long nice bath we ate together and then I crawled into a freshly made bed. Once in the bed it did not take long before I slept like a log. It was the first night I spent indoors in more than a week and I enjoyed just being able to rest and sleep without rushing off anywhere.

Rest is more than sleep

The need for rest is one of our basic survival needs. This becomes very clear when it comes to sleep. As soon as we are awake for a few hours more than usual, our bodies begin to signal in very clear ways that we need to rest. We nod and have a hard time keeping our eyes open. And we become drowsy and unfocused. However, for me, the need for rest is about so much more than sleep. When life is spinning at a furious pace, it can sometimes be wonderful to get involved in different projects and get a lot done. But if it goes on for too long, I notice that things go astray. Tasks I usually find easy, suddenly become difficult. I lose cognitive ability and get confused, I make mistakes and forget things.

Rest does not have to be synonymous with physical stillness. On the contrary, I can probably experience rest, even if the strategy is to be very physically active. If I’m very physically still, while my brain is working at full speed, then having rest can include going out for a walk or running in the woods.

If I have been engaged in something for a longer time, regardless of what it is, I think the need for rest is met when I do something different. It might be reducing impressions from my senses or slowing down physical activity.

Counterproductive strategies

Sometimes when I need to rest, I engage in mindless or repetitive behaviours. It might be activities such as playing computer games or watching YouTube clips. In some cases, this may satisfy the need for rest. But in most cases I think it’s just about disconnecting myself. If the behaviour is about a different kind of activity than the one I got tired of, I think I get a certain form of rest even from mindless behaviours. Yet I do not think I get the needed recovery in the same way as through a more conscious form of quality rest.

My definition

When I now think of the need for rest, my own definition would be something like this: “A state where I choose to reduce different kinds of physical and mental stimuli and let my mind and my body calm down”. Depending on what I have been doing before, rest can take on many different strategies. Lying down in my bed is just one form.

Share your strategies fulfiling the need for rest in the comment below or, if you are a Premium subscriber of “The Needs’ Year”, at the online platform here: https://empathiceurope.com/online/courses/the-needs-year/modules/week-3/ 


Joachim Berggren (CNVC Certified Trainer)

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On Sunday (23 January 2022 at 18:30 CET), you can participate in a Zoom Talk with me and Shona Cameron. We will talk about the need for rest.

Sign up for the Needs’ Year and you will receive a link to Zoom.

If you read this afterwards, you can watch the recording when you become a premium subscriber. Check the details HERE.

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