Best Advice I Ever Received: Learn to Rest

When I was about to turn 40, I was diagnosed with lupus SLE, an incurable autoimmune disease that impacts more than 1 million Americans, mostly women. That first year was very hard for me physically, yet I continued to work over 50 hours per week. The only time I took time off was when I was in the hospital. I even returned to work the day after I was discharged and went on a work trip the next week. I was single at the time and I’d supported myself financially since I was 19 years old, so the idea of not working never occurred to me. I needed this job and the health insurance that came with it. Besides, work had always made sense to me, even when everything else in my life was falling apart.

I was at an appointment with my rheumatologist with yet another random inflammation that we were having difficulty controlling, even with high doses of steroids. My doctor looked at me and asked, “Rachel, do you know how to rest?” I looked at him like he was crazy and retorted, “I can rest when I’m dead, Doc.” He was not amused. Instead, he looked me straight in the eye and said, “Rachel, if you do not learn to rest, you are going to get there sooner rather than later.” It was a wake-up call for me and the best advice I ever received.

Learning to rest did not come naturally to me. I have always been on the go from the moment I get up to the time I go to bed at night. Between billable hours, marketing, client development, and my social, community, and family commitments, I didn’t think there was any time in the day for “me time.” But I stopped and made the time. In the beginning—I was literally entering “rest time” in my calendar. Soon, it became more natural, as I quickly realized that a rested Rachel was an overall better Rachel. I was able to become more engaged because I wasn’t always running on empty. I was more productive and focused because my mind was clearer. I became a better lawyer, counselor, wife, friend, sister, daughter because I was able to be fully present due to the fact that I wasn’t so tired and sick all the time. And my lupus finally got under control. I still struggle at times, and being an employer-side employment lawyer in the middle of a pandemic and economic crisis has definitely added to that struggle, but I’ve become better at listening to my body. And when it’s telling me to rest, I do.

I’ve applied this concept to my practice. I realize that many of my clients have similar busy jobs and family lives that make rest difficult to obtain, particularly during this pandemic. I will often ask my clients, “What can I do to make your job easier?” If I do my job and make their job a bit easier, maybe they can find some much needed rest time as well.