Are you neglecting this important health practice?

Learn from my experience. … Doing so will calm your spirit, improve your health, and hopefully prevent you from waking up with a wrenched back!

Artwork by John P. Weiss

Two weeks ago on a Friday morning, I woke up with a problem. I could barely get out of bed. My lower back was locked with spasms.

The weird part is that I don’t know what caused my wrenched back. I work out twice a week with a personal trainer. We haven’t deviated from the usual exercises. Go figure!

Slowly, I crawled out of bed and did some slow stretches to loosen up. I took ibuprofen and hobbled around the house like a bent, old man. My son delighted in teasing me.

A new beginning

It was difficult to get any artwork or writing done sitting down, as my back would get stiffer. To compensate, I used my standup desk to work. Still, I was uncomfortable.

“It’s always hard to deal with injuries mentally, but I like to think about it as a new beginning. I can’t change what happened, so the focus needs to go toward healing and coming back stronger than before.” – Carli Lloyd

The following day, I gutted it out and showed up for my 11 AM workout at the gym. My trainer, Cody, watched my bent body limp into his office. He tilted his head to the right, sized up my situation and said, “John … go home.”

“Ah, come on Cody, I’m not a quitter,” I protested. “Maybe I can lie down and we can work on arms or something?”

Cody wouldn’t have it. He knew it was too soon for any kind of workout and sent me home.

Every cloud has a silver lining

I don’t do well with unplanned downtime. Maybe it’s my obsessive/ compulsive nature. Doing nothing feels like wasting time to me. Time I could spend writing, creating art, reading, exercising or getting other things done.

I paid a visit to my doctor, and he prescribed a high dose of anti-inflamatories, as well as some heat therapy.

Every cloud has a silver lining. My unwelcome back injury forced me to slow down and take it easy.

We all know how important sleep is to our health. Plenty has been written about the restorative power of a good night’s sleep. What often gets overlooked, however, it the cousin of sleep. Namely, rest.

Sleep alone is not enough

Medical doctor and author Matthew Edlund discovered something interesting after years of clinical research and hundreds of patients. He realized that people don’t just suffer from lack of sleep. They’re rest deprived, too.

Think about your own busy life. All the responsibilities, appointments, commitments, deadlines and work stress. Our central nervous systems become overloaded, and sleep alone is not enough. We need to rejuvenate ourselves with adequate rest.

My wrenched back forced me to slow down and rest. Resting allowed me to relax and think about my work, habits and goals. I realized that I have been pushing myself too hard, which explained why I’ve felt burned out lately.

Dr. Edlund penned a book titled “The Power of Rest: Why Sleep Alone Is Not Enough. A 30-Day Plan to Reset Your Body.” In it, he identifies four areas of our lives where we need to employ active rest:

Physical rest

Mental rest

Social rest

Spiritual rest

Giving our bodies and minds time to rest is restorative. Social rest includes taking a break from parties, social commitments and the endless distractions of social media.

The calm that comes from rest refreshes our spirit, and can help deepen our philosophical and/or religious perspectives.

Rest is not idleness

My back injury forced me to rest, but there’s nothing stopping you from adopting active rest in your own life.

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.” – John Lubbock

What feels initially like wasting time is actually a powerful health practice that can transform your life. Incorporating short naps into your day, quiet time to rest in your car, early morning meditation, long walks, a soothing bath and other restful practices will improve your health.

You think you don’t have time for these restful moments, but you do. Just shut that laptop and give Facebook a break. Or turn off the evening news and take a walk with your dogs.

The path ahead

My back is on the mend. This unexpected time of rest benefited more than my spine. It helped me slow down, reevaluate my work schedule, and make some decisions about the path ahead.

Do yourself a favor and learn from my wrenched back experience. Make time for active rest. Doing so will calm your spirit, improve your health, and hopefully prevent you from waking up with a wrenched back!

Before you take a rest

I’m John P. Weiss. Fine artist and writer. Get on my free email list for the latest artwork and writing. No spam, privacy respected.

This article first appeared on Medium.