Two and a half years ago I was the poster child for grind culture. I was running a theatre company, working a support job and side hustles, and I almost never slowed down. When I did, it was painful. It was uncomfortable. It felt like I was incapable of enjoying any kind of rest or relaxation period – even when I craved it. Guided by a lifetime of cultural conditioning, and a theatre industry full of grind-worshipping narratives, I pushed myself into burnout. Again. And again. And again.

Flash forward a year into graduate school. I’m following along to a pre-recorded online yoga class, breathing heavily through downward dog when the teacher says, “To rest we must prepare.”

I don’t hear the rest of what she says. To rest we must prepare. The phrase sticks in my mind, and I’m repeating it to myself, trying to make sense of it. What do you mean, ‘prepare’? How do you ‘prepare’ to rest?

This was a cracking-open moment for me, one which would change my life.

There’s a reason many asana-based yoga practices start with the physical practice, transition to pranayama (or breathwork), and end with savasana, or resting corpse pose. Everything in that practice is preparing you for that final moment of stillness on the mat.

Here is how I am currently understanding this idea off the yoga mat, that in order to rest – to really rest and feel rejuvenated from it – we need to prepare:

Caitlin, in a blue rain jacket and yellow headband, closes her eyes and lets out an exhale while sitting in her car. Text reads: We have complex relationships with rest.

A brief moment of rest “snatched”, as Tricia Hersey might say, in the few minutes before heading in to work.

FIRST – WE HAVE COMPLEX RELATIONSHIPS WITH REST: In our culture, rest is devalued. Being productive is the highest and worthiest state of being and rest is only necessary as much as it serves our ability to be productive. Because of this cultural conditioning, many of us have complicated relationships to rest. Many students I’ve worked with share that they feel guilty when they’re resting, like they’re supposed to be using that time to do something productive. They can recognize the importance of rest while struggling to actually practice it because doing so feels deeply wrong and uncomfortable.

Take a moment with that. We have been conditioned to feel guilty. About resting. As if the act of slowing ourselves down, the act of rejuvenating ourselves, is wrong. There is a reason we have been conditioned this way, which I’ll address later on.

Caitlin and a friend with their arms around each other, smile at the camera in front of a wintry forest and river. Text reads: We may not know what rest is.

Depending on what feels depleted, a walk with a friend through a wintry forest landscape might be EXACTLY the kind of rest you need.

SECOND – WE MAY NOT KNOW WHAT REST IS: What we think rest is, and what actually rejuvenates us, may be two totally different things. I started noticing that after coming home and turning on the TV for a few hours, an activity I’ve learned to associate with relaxation and resting, I didn’t feel any different. And sometimes, I felt more drained than before. I started noticing this not just with TV, but with other activities I assumed should rejuvenate me: taking a walk, doing some yoga, meditating, hell, even sleep. This was profoundly frustrating. I’m doing all the things!! I thought. I’m doing everything they tell you to do, I’m doing it right. Why don’t I feel better?

Here’s my little theory: I was performing rest.

I could recognize when I was tired. And so I knew that in response to being tired I should do something to rejuvenate myself. So I’d pick something (usually in a rushed and irritated way) and hoped it would do the trick.

We are not taught how to rest. And one of the things I have learned is that in order to go beyond performing rest, and to actually rejuvenate myself, I need to take a moment to determine what needs rejuvenating. Another way to think about it is: What resource of mine has been depleted? Have I exhausted my social resources, and need to rejuvenate by having some solo time? Have I exhausted my physicality, and need some gentle stretching or stillness? Have I exhausted my capacity to perform executive functions, and need to do something creative and fun? Am I emotionally overwhelmed with big feelings, and could use a half-hour dissociating in front of the tv?

It’s not that some activities are inherently more rejuvenating than others. It’s that some activities are a better source of rejuvenation depending on what’s been depleted.

Bean the kitty cat curls up on Caitlin's legs as both of them take a nap.

Bean the kitty cat shows how it’s done and takes a nap on Caitlin’s legs.

THIRD – HOW TO PREPARE FOR REST: Rest takes preparation, because in order to feel rejuvenated, we need to know what’s been depleted. How we practice rest will change depending on what resource of ours needs refilling.

As I’ve been integrating this practice into my life, here’s what rest preparation looks like for me:

  • Ask myself: What resource of mine has been depleted? How might I rejuvenate that resource?
  • Ask myself: What do I need to do in order to protect & honor that rejuvenation period? In other words, do I need to communicate to my partner that yes, there’s gonna be a blanket fort in the living room tonight? Do I need to schedule time on my calendar for this rest? What physical preparation is needed?
  • I do those things. I schedule that alone time, I tell my partner not to disturb me, I lay out the paints and the paper the night before.
Caitlin holds a white mug up to her cheek with her eyes closed. Text reads: You want me to do executive functioning when I can't freaking function?!?!

A rough day. The executive functioning needed to kickstart a new practice is not always easily accessible, and often damn near impossible.

FOURTH – THIS IS HARD: This type of self-reflection and acting on that self-reflection is hard when you’re already exhausted, and don’t have any bandwidth (or ‘spoons’ for neuro-sparkly folks) for this kind of executive functioning. Never mind a host of other reasons it might be hard, like if you’re a parent, or if you’re caring for an elderly loved one, or if you’ve been conditioned as a ‘human giver,’ someone with a marginalized identity taught that their primary function is to give to folks with dominant identities.

Quick Note: More on ‘Human Giver Syndrome’ here, and if you’d like to read more on Human Giver Syndrome and how it pertains to actors, send me an email and I’ll send you my thesis. :))

This is also (partly) how we remain stuck in cycles of burnout. How can you possibly pull yourself out of a hole without any equipment, stamina, or HP to get yourself out? (hp is for ‘hit points’, that’s a lil D&D joke for my fellow adventurers.)

Keeping us stuck in varying degrees of tired / burned out / minimal-spoons-left is intentional on the part of systems of supremacy. In other words, it’s not you, babe. You’ve been groomed to value productivity over rest, because when you’re exhausted, it’s a lot harder to question the status quo. Resisting systemic oppression takes energy. How can you do that if you’ve got none to start out with?

Caitlin reaches her arms up to a blue sky. Text reads: What CAN I do?

A moment of belief in possibility.


–> Reach for the nearest pillow and rest in small ways, when you can. Do your best and give yourself massive amounts of grace. This is a practice. You’re unlearning a lifetime of conditioning. You may be doing this unlearning with fewer spoons. It’s going to take time and heaps and heaps of self-compassion.

–> Join a community of resters so others can take turns supporting you, and where you can ask questions when you get stuck. (oh heeeey, have you joined Rest & Love in Creative Living yet? it’s just this lil’ community I’m building of creative folks who want to recenter rest in their practice.)

–> It’s not as simple as flipping off a switch. “Oh, rest is good, you say? What a novel concept.” No no. I’m not saying rest is good – I’m saying rest is the backbone of your creative practice, and the systems we live in have been stealing it from you. Tricia Hersey, author of Rest is Resistance and a key source of inspiration for my work, writes that “Rest provides a portal for healing, imagination, and communication with our Ancestors. We can work things out in a DreamSpace. What miraculous moments are you missing because you aren’t resting?”

Although I feel like a radically different human than the person who started this journey two and a half years ago, I very much feel that I am still at the beginning. This is lifelong, baby!

So. Let’s rest together. And through our rest, we will grow some fucking incredible creative magic.

Rest & Love in Creative Living. An online & aligned community dedicated to investigating this question: How can we pursue a creative life with sustainability & joy?

Ok ok ok ok. Now I want to hear from you. Did anything surprise you, or stand out to you in this piece? Where is your rest practice supporting your creative magic? Where are you hitting hurdles?

Send in your questions & wisdom to and I’ll put them in the Rest & Love in Creative Living’ email newsletter, so all of us can benefit! If you send me a question, I’ll answer.

Sign up for ‘Rest & Love in Creative Living’ here.

Until then, seek ease and rest today.

With love,

Sources & Inspiration: