Rest is Resistance

Your body is a site of liberation. It doesn’t belong to capitalism. Love your body. Rest your body. Move your body. Hold your body.

So many of us have got ‘Rushing Woman Syndrome‘,  constantly in a hurry to do so many things and be there for so many people. Tricia Hersey, in her book Rest is Resistance, challenges the notion that constant productivity and engagement are necessary or healthy, emphasising the importance of rest and self-care, particularly in activist communities where burnout is common.

She says:

“Many people believe grind culture is this pie-in-the-sky monster directing our every move, when in reality we become grind culture. We are grind culture. Grind culture is our everyday behaviors, expectations, and engagements with each other and the world around us. We have been socialized, manipulated, and indoctrinated by everything in culture to believe the lies of grind culture. In order for a capitalist system to thrive, our false beliefs in productivity and labor must remain. We have internalized its teachings and become zombie-like in Spirit and exhausted in body. So we push ourselves and each other under the guise of being hyperproductive and efficient. From a very young age we begin the slow process of disconnecting from our bodies’ need to rest and are praised when we work ourselves to exhaustion. We tell our children to “stop being lazy” when they aren’t participating in work culture with the same intensity as us. We lose empathy for ourselves first and push excessively. We become managers, teachers, and leaders who fall prey to the allure of a capitalist system and treat those we have the honor of working with as human machines. We become rigid and impatient when our checklist isn’t completed to perfection. We become less human and less secure. We believe we are only meant to survive and not thrive. We see care as unnecessary and unimportant. We believe we don’t really have to rest. We falsely believe hard work guarantees success in a capitalist system. I have been told this constantly for as long as I can remember. On nights when I worked two jobs, still unable to pay my bills on time or save, I continued to tell myself, “Burn the midnight oil, keep working hard, go to college, find a third job and a side hustle.” I clearly remember the moment it clicked for me how a capitalist, patriarchal, ableist, anti-Black system could never make space for the success I wanted for myself. The “success” grind culture props up centers constant labor, material wealth, and overworking as a badge of honor. Resting is about the beginning process of undoing trauma so that we can thrive and evolve back to our natural state: a state of ease and rest.”

The concept of “Rest as Resistance” is a powerful and increasingly relevant idea, particularly in social justice, mental health, and activism circles. It challenges the dominant cultural narrative that equates constant productivity and busyness with worth and success. Here are some key aspects of this concept:

  1. Counteracting Burnout Culture: In a society that often glorifies being overworked and constantly busy, advocating for rest becomes a form of resistance. This is especially pertinent in activist communities, where the demands of fighting for social change can lead to burnout. “Rest as Resistance” emphasizes the importance of taking time to recharge, both for personal well-being and to maintain the effectiveness and sustainability of social justice efforts.
  2. Historical and Cultural Context: The idea also has roots in addressing historical inequalities, particularly for people of color. It challenges the legacy of exploitation and the devaluation of rest, which has been a part of many oppressive systems. By prioritizing rest, individuals are resisting these deep-seated norms and asserting their right to self-care and well-being.
  3. Mental Health and Self-Care: Rest as resistance ties closely with the broader mental health and self-care movements. It recognizes that mental health is as important as physical health and that rest is a crucial component of maintaining mental well-being. This perspective advocates for a holistic approach to health that includes adequate rest as a fundamental aspect.
  4. Redefining Productivity: The concept encourages a redefinition of what it means to be productive. It suggests that rest and rejuvenation are essential parts of a productive life. By resting, individuals can return to their work or activism rejuvenated and with a clearer perspective, often leading to more meaningful and effective contributions.
  5. Empowerment and Agency: Rest as resistance is about taking control over one’s own time and energy. It’s an act of empowerment, allowing individuals to set boundaries and prioritise their needs in a world that often demands constant availability and engagement.
  6. Community and Solidarity: There’s also a communal aspect to this idea. It’s not just about individual rest, but about creating cultures and communities that value and support rest for everyone. This involves changing workplace norms, societal expectations, and even laws and policies to ensure that people have the time and space to rest.

She goes on to say:

“I keep hearing about the ways we exhaust ourselves to be seen as valuable and I am wondering when we will shift to see our inherent worth. When this happens, we will be closer to liberation. How can we access pleasure, joy and liberation if we are too tired to experience it?

Let our rest be a resurrection. Let the veils be lifted so we can fed, see, taste, and smell the power of our rested selves. May we realise a full mental shift must be made to reimagine and reclaim rest as holy. May we be excited by the impossible and move through any cynicism or hopelessness to emerge on the other side steady with love, persistence, and hope. Rest can save, sustain, and prop us up when we feel weak and our backs are against the wall. Our greatest hope to thrive and disrupt is to rest deeply and intentionally. The rest is the work. It is how the portal for liberation and a reckoning will emerge and remain open. May the portal of rest be our refuge. May we go there often.”

I hope you’re reading this lying down.