The Summer Rest Imperative

We are fast approaching summer’s end. Early summer invited us outside, where the sun’s energy is easily accessible, nature’s gifts are abundant, and physical activity flows more easily into our lives. The warmth of early summer relaxes and softens the muscles and inspires more movement, helping to pacify the heavy, moist, phlegmy kapha of spring.

The end of summer, however, can be a time of literal and figurative burn-out, especially for those who are prone to overachieving and trying to pack everything in (us pitta-dominant folks know who we are!). From this vantage point, we can recognize summer requires off-setting our activity with ample rest if we want to get through it in one piece. But how do we DO that?

Before the modern invention of air conditioning, everyone HAD to move slower in summer as a matter of survival. In the peak midday heat, you stopped moving, got under some shade, and relaxed. Siesta is a wise response to nature’s summer-time demands.

The body has not evolved as fast as our technology, and neither has the mind. In summer heat, we benefit greatly by balancing our energy output with regular, well-timed periods of rest – and not just making the body still working on email or reading a demanding article, but actually putting the mind in a state of repose as well. This is how the old-fashioned bodily system must replenish itself. By late August, if we haven’t paced ourselves and given enough space for not-doing, we will tap out. 

Many of us, unfortunately, have forgotten where the “off” switch is. We’ve been on overdrive for so long, we no longer hear the signals from the body and mind that it’s time for some R&R. Many clients come to see me concerned about low energy levels, and when we get into their daily routines, we discover there is no fallow time – no time when neither the mind nor the body are asked to perform. 

We NEED regular doses of receptive stillness in order to heal, restore, detoxify, and even to digest fully. In truth, we need this spaciousness and balance all year round – but especially in summer. Summer’s increased daylight hours and beautiful outward energy can encourage us to get out in nature and have some fun (always medicinal!) but we can end up burning the candle at both ends – maintaining high production and mental effort AND engaging in outdoor activities and late-day adventures. 

The good news? It’s never too late to rest. For these last few weeks of summer, if you haven’t already, schedule in some real rest. Create some stay-cation time. Pick a day, or a weekend – or heck, a week! – and DO LESS. Sit out by a pool (under some shade) and sip a yummy beverage. Do some beach reading, even if you’re at home in front of a fan. Call an old friend and have a live phone conversation. Lounge on the couch and talk with your family about old memories. Play some favorite music, and just listen.

Give your body and mind the rest they need on a regular basis – and when you are feeling low, give more rest. When we move in cycles as nature does, making space for quiet and stillness, in time we experience a corresponding up-tick in energy, productivity and pure enjoyment. We were not built to be one-speed machines. Be a good “boss” and give yourself a summer break.

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