Rest to Reset: Redefining Rest and Self-Care with Suzy Reading
How did we end up here? “Here” being this perpetual state of burnout where we feel like rest is a bad thing or worse -something we earn? While rest is just as critical to our ability to function as food or water, somehow it’s become negotiable. Or it’s just for the lazy.
In this episode, I’m joined by self-care and rest expert and author, Suzy Reading. She’s the author of Rest to Reset, The Busy Person's Guide to Pausing with Purpose. We go deep into understanding the obsession we have around achieving perfection in any area of our lives-be it in our relationships, careers, health, or home decor. We’ll explore how to be better gatekeepers of the messages we allow into our social feeds, as well as our minds.
And then there’s the fact that rest often doesn’t feel like an option because our financial security and relationships depend on them. But if we take an honest look at our lives, one thing is clear: there are diminishing returns for pushing on. If you know something needs to shift when it comes to your relationship with rest, take a moment to exhale and listen in.
In this episode, you’ll learn
To learn more about Suzy Reading and her work, visit her website at
Jenn Huber 00:01
Hey there, midlife feast family, you're definitely going to want to cozy up and listen to this episode with my guests, Susie Redding, talking about self care, self compassion, and rest. So Susie is a mother of two. She's an author. She has several books out most recently one titled arrest to reset, which is how I found her and wanted to invite her on the podcast to talk about rest, because I think we have a cultural resistance to rest that we definitely dive into in this interview. But more importantly, she has some really lovely, practical, welcoming ways to incorporate rest without feeling like it's a reward for productivity. So that really resonated with me. And I hope that you enjoy this episode, because rest isn't optional. It is something that we all need more of, and we need to do it without guilt. Welcome Susie, to the midlife feast.
Suzy Reading 01:06
Oh, thank you, Jen. Thank you, I'm really looking forward to our conversation.
Jenn Huber 01:10
I am too so I don't know when I found your started following you on Instagram. But pretty much every time that you post your words of wisdom, or you know, just a thought, it really feels it feels comfortable. You know, I read it. And I think Ah, yes. And so I you know, I've followed you for a while and I picked up your latest book, and I thought I really, really, really want to have Suzy on the podcast. So welcome.
Suzy Reading 01:40
Oh, thank you for such a lovely, warm welcome. You know, it's just, it's, it's a pleasure to share the journey with you. That's what we're doing.
Jenn Huber 01:49
So tell me a little bit about your journey. Tell tell our listeners a little bit about you and how you got to do this thing that you're doing helping people to to rest.
Suzy Reading 01:59
Okay, so there have been lots of twists and turns in my professional career. And I'm a chartered psychologist. But I didn't start my professional life working as a psychologist, I actually launched a personal training business, which I ran very successfully in London for seven years by accident. At the same time, I did yoga teacher training qualifications. It wasn't until I moved back to Australia, and became a mum that I really reclaimed my practice as a psychologist. And so really, you know, those qualifications of psychology, yoga, health and fitness, all of that aside, it was becoming a mum, at the same time as losing my dad that really has been transformative in my professional offering, and the way that I live my life lived experience that that makes self care, self compassion, rest themes that are very close to my heart.
Jenn Huber 03:06
Yeah, absolutely. So one of the things when I was reading your book that really resonated with me, is what your latest book because you've written several but and this one's called rest to reset. Right? Did I get that? Right? It's right. Yeah, I haven't looked at it for a while. So was this idea that DIY culture has really infringed on our mental rest. And I, I really, really resonated with this because as somebody who works with people on nutrition and their relationship with food, the thing that I see so much is people who are exhausted from trying to, you know, find their own solutions. And I'll and I'll say to them, there are people whose jobs I'm one of them is to help you navigate how to have a relationship with food that is easy and supports your health and feels like you're well supported. Why do we feel like we have to DIY everything. And I thought it was such a great observation that we have prioritize saving money, whether it's fixing our home or fixing our health, over the time that is saved when we work with professionals or work with people who have the experience to kind of shorten the path for us. So can you tell me a little bit about that?
Suzy Reading 04:31
I think the messaging is coming from lots of different angles, right? So we've got consumerism that pokes and prods at our insecurities and makes us feel like there's this bottomless hole that we can never fill. You know, we've got to keep purchasing and buying more to be more so there's that tension. Then we've got the hustle and grind culture that tells us You snooze, you lose. We've got the fitness industry that tells us no pain, no gain. There's sense of, and the self care movement as well tends to put the onus on the individual. Right. And I sort of, I feel passionate about empowering people with nourishing skills and practices, but not for a second, am I saying that we should be shouldering our burden alone. And I think it's also a function of the fact that we've got all of this information at our fingertips reach. So, you know, we Google, you know, all the symptoms before booking in with the GP, you know, we feel like because there's that information there, we should be able to handle everything, there's this, again, the messaging around resilience, that we should somehow be impervious to life's blows, you know, it's just, it's, it's, it's really not very helpful, is it?
Jenn Huber 05:52
It isn't. And I think that that really crash lands, for people in midlife, that, you know, we get to this, this agent stage where we have spent a lot of time figuring shit out, you know, we we generally, I, you know, I think there are, there's gonna be some gaps in that. But in general, we have most of our stuff figured out, you know, but at the same time, this desire and ability to be part of grind culture really starts to shift. But there's a, I think of it, it's a push pull situation, we feel, you know, driven to keep up with the Joneses, to do the things that people tell us we should be doing. And yet we really internally know, the knowing is that that doesn't feel good anymore. And is that something that you've noticed as well, that you see?
Suzy Reading 06:51
Definitely, I think it's really important that we address this Keeping Up with the Joneses. Before we used to have glossy magazines where we saw the celebrities, right? Now we've got social media, where we see there's a window, we're not just seeing the grass is greener, now we're invited into somebody's home. And we're seeing absolutely all the best bits. And we've got all the professionals sharing their tidbits saying do this, do that. So we compare ourselves to the personal trainers, to the nutritionist, to the psychologists, to the artists, to the chef's, to the yoga teachers and feel like we should be attaining that level of perfection and all of these aspects of our lives, which is just simply not possible, not humanly possible. So there's an awful lot of noise out there. There's an awful lot of knowledge, there's an awful lot of burden and pressure, to to aspire to, to live up to these impossible standards.
Jenn Huber 07:51
Yeah. So it's funny actually, that you talk about that, because one of the things that I tell people all the time is that I help people to lower the bar with nutrition. You know, I don't, I hate, I don't hate that's too strong of a word. I really really dislike the perfectionist culture around food, and the the moralistic hierarchy, that if you're at the top of that hierarchy, you're eating, organic, and you're making all your food at home, and you're making your own doll, almond milk, and you're doing all these things, and that somehow, that makes you a better person and gives you a better life.
And you know, it takes away like that level of perfection that we feel like we need to strive for because of what we see everywhere. Takes away from our experience of living in this life, it doesn't make it better, it makes it you know that we're thinking about it all the time, and that we're worrying about it all the time. So how do we get out of that? Because it is everywhere. And you know, right or wrong? I don't think social media is going anywhere. I don't think this comparison culture is going anywhere. How do we step out of it without disengaging from life? Because that's the challenge I know that I faced
Suzy Reading 09:02
totally, totally and, and Jen, I'm gonna put my hand on my heart and say thank God, for social media, because that enables me to stay connected with people all over the world, nurturing those connections, and the friendships that I've made very real in these apps and the conversations like this that we're having, you know, thank goodness. However, I think we need to be mindful. I think, here's to curating our feed to make sure that we know that were imbibing knowledge from reliable sources.
And that were protecting our mental health in the process. If there are things that are niggling that don't sit comfortably, then we have permission to curate. Yeah. And I think it really helps to just be mindful of why we're checking in because so often we turn to our screens as a way of filling time in As a way of filling the void and and in actual fact, there are plenty of other life giving things that we could do as an alternative that would meet our needs in a much more effective way.
Jenn Huber 10:11
Yeah, so let's talk a little bit about rest. Because I love everything that you say about rest of the in your book, I love the way that you describe it. And I really liked how you talked about the stigma around rest? How do we get to a place where resting is a bad thing?
Suzy Reading 10:28
Okay, so I think it has ancient roots. Yeah, obviously, you know, historically, hunter gatherer communities, being idle was was not something to be praised, we needed to be making a contribution for collective survival. Now, I would say that we still need to be making a contribution for collective survival, we need to be doing our part. However, that contribution doesn't need to be at the cost of our health and well being. But unfortunately, in a climate, where there's the cost of living crisis, there's financial insecurity, concerns about job stability.
My goodness, of course, we feel like we've got to be doing the graft, we've got to be showing that we're loyal we're showing on right. But I think we've proven over the pandemic that we can show up, but engage in flexible working practices that actually are sustainable and nourishing for our health. I think really, first and foremost, we've got to take a look at our relationship with rest on a personal level, because again, all of that messaging that we've already talked about, whether it's grind culture, health and beauty, consumerism, we've we've, it's infiltrated our belief system around rest.
And until you take a look at your associations with rest, I could sit here and give 100 Different restorative practices, and no one's going to do them until you feel like it's okay to do it. So that's the first starting point.
Jenn Huber 11:57
So how do we get okay with it? If we feel like, you know, we've got this comparison culture, or maybe we have expectations that are placed on us by employers, my family members, you know, things that maybe actually need to happen and yet aren't happening. Because we're overwhelmed. You know, like, that's kind of what I noticed with my own tendency to overwork is that when I get into that, winding up of Oh, my God, I had so much to do, I'm actually less than productive.
Suzy Reading 12:27
Total. There it is, Jen, you've nailed it. Please, can we observe that there are diminishing returns to pushing on?
Jenn Huber 12:35
Yes, so true. So true.
Suzy Reading 12:39
And the fact is, we treat ourselves like machine like a machine. However, when you look at how we treat our devices, we treat our devices with greater respect than we treat ourselves. And the fact is, we're not machines, we're not robots, we do not have infinite capacity. Yeah, I think, thank goodness, you know, in the in the last decade, we've had much healthier messaging around sleep, I think most people would acknowledge that, okay, sleep is a basic human need.
And in actual fact, good sleep alone is not enough. We need rest, to help us recalibrate throughout our day, we need rest to help us heal and restore in the throes of big emotions or challenging life experiences. And what we've learned in the last three years, no one is immune from those, right, we've all been squeezed. So it's his his to reframing rest and understanding that it is a basic human need. It's how we heal, it's how we restore, it's how we fuel ourselves. It's how we replenish yarn, so that we can patch up and be the kind of people that we aspire to be.
Jenn Huber 13:52
So one of the things that you say in your book is that we need to weave it into our day, which is so important, because often when I talk to people, and I say, so how are you? How are you taking a break? How are you resting? They'll say, Oh, I go to the, you know, I get a massage every other week, or I go to bed early one night a week, or I do you know, but there isn't a daily practice of rest, restoration. But it's hard.
Because, you know, for most of us, I think and especially if you have you know, younger families or a really demanding job, or whatever it is, it's hard to do that thing every day. How can we do that? How can we actually prioritize rest on a daily basis, without feeling like something is, you know, falling behind?
Suzy Reading 14:43
So I would say that people are probably engaging in more restorative practices than they realize. Okay. Yeah, I think that we tend to sort of associate rest with being still you know, an absence of stimulation, doing something on your own rune that is part of rest. But I think what the pandemic showed us is that this century rest is actually it's not enough in itself. Okay? And actually, too much of that kind of rest isn't terribly good for us either. Yeah. So what I want to do in this in my book quest to reset is to broaden people's conceptualization of what rest is. Yes.
And that definition is, rest is anything that brings you back to balance. It's some kind of activity that brings you a sense of peace, a sense of harmony. And when you see it from that perspective, we were doing these little restorative practices all the time without necessarily associating that with resting. And actually, when we see these things as juicy and restorative, we get more out of it. Okay, so rest is the opportunity to reset, it's not always going to be stillness, sometimes it's movement, it's not always going to be solitude, sometimes it's company, sometimes it's not going to be a brain fade, it's actually going to be do something doing something that piques a sense of curiosity or a gentle mental stretch, because we've been engaged in perhaps something that's been really monotonous all day, right.
So there are lots of different facets to it. And the beauty is none of these things necessarily have to take a huge chunk of time, energy or expense, that can be very simply woven into our day.
Jenn Huber 16:29
I love that an example that came to mind was, so when we moved from Canada to the Netherlands, one of the things that I had a difficult time doing was, you know, getting books in English. So I love to read, I worked across from our Public Library in Nova Scotia. And so I almost always either had a physical book or an ebook, you know, on the go. But when we moved to the Netherlands, I wasn't able to access a lot of English books easily, I could order them but you know, there isn't.
There's a couple of local bookstores that have those small books, but about halfway through the pandemic, and that, well, the first year, the pandemic and 2020, I thought, I'm really missing having this selection of good books to look forward to. And so I gave myself like a little budget, whereas you know, before I would always prioritize borrowing the books, I said, I'm gonna give myself a 20 Euro budget a month to buy a book or two, so that I can always have one accessible, and I still borrow most of them.
But now I don't have to wait if they're if I don't have a good book, because for me, reading is the most restorative thing, even if it's just 15 minutes of you know, that break from my day and going to do something that I enjoy. And it didn't have to cost a lot of time or money, but just being able to see that it was such a valuable part of myself care that it needed to come before the act of saving money, which is what I always used to prioritize, get, you know, boring from the library. What are some other suggestions for like the little things, not the big things, but the little day to day things that people might be able to incorporate? If they're feeling the need for rest, but they don't know where to start? Because that's what I often see. When I ask people for what can you do to press pause? And other than just like literally pressing pause and doing nothing? They don't know how to incorporate the small things into their day.
Suzy Reading 18:18
Okay, I really love that. You said the word press pause. Yeah, let's, let's press pause together right now. Okay. So can you take the back of your hand to your forehead and, and press firmly? Yeah, yeah. And just give yourself a little breather. So with this, we are saying to ourselves, it is okay. For me to take a break. A break is not a distraction from more important things. A break is an opportunity so that I can refresh and return to task with greater focus and effectiveness. And also because I just deserve a moment of tenderness, yeah.
Take a couple of breaths, noticing how it feels, applying that pressure at the forehead. Notice that it softens the eyes. It releases your jaw. It softens even the tongue in your mouth and it slows your rate of breathing down. It's a beautiful rest for the senses. There is so much stimulation in everyday life. Now, when we let that go, give yourself a moment to adjust. But what I'm hoping you will notice is that we have a greater clarity of vision.
Jenn Huber 19:38
It is really powerful actually.
Suzy Reading 19:41
Beautiful. Hopefully a little more peace as well. Yeah.
Jenn Huber 19:46
I love the physical connection to the forehead because you know that is where we have that big muscle that comes up over or you know our scalp and that tends to hold the tension when we're thinking so much and making that fit connection to it was really was tangible. Like I could actually feel those muscles relaxing and my eyes softening. That was lovely. Thank you for that.
Suzy Reading 20:09
So that is how we reboot the nervous system. So there is a beautiful little purposeful course. So what what we've done in that little ritual might look much. And granted, you know, if life is really tough, I know this is not going to be the solution to all of our problems, right? It just helps us cope in the moment. Okay, so think of this as our support system. But what we're engaging here is therapeutic, loving touch, we are extending tenderness towards ourselves with with the touch, but also with the words that we're using. We're cultivating a physical release.
With that, that pressure with that touch with you can cultivate the same release using movement. And we're also working with the breath. Yeah. So for people that are thinking, how the hell do I do this stuff, I hear you, like, Jenna in those early stages of motherhood. At one point, I had mom in one hospital that in another hospital, and a baby that didn't sleep for more than two hours at a stretch. And it was just, it was ridiculous. But I could always work with my breath, I could be kind intended to myself with the words that I chose.
And I could engage in soothing practices, whether that was lying down with my legs, up the wall, in the tiny little tidbits of moments where my baby was asleep, right, I could do that instead of Oh, my goodness. Before that I was I was watching things like days of our lives and young and the restless. And I tell you what, if you're not depressed, before watching that stuff, you will be after it. Right legs up the wall was the tonic doesn't take any energy, five minutes of it, and we get the benefit. This is the stuff that I'm talking about really simple, accessible things that do make a tangible difference.
Jenn Huber 21:55
And, you know, words matter. So I love that you have this word cloud in your book for other names for rest. And you know, because I think that if, if you're getting caught on rest, and what that looks like, just call it something else, call it recovery, color rejuvenation, call it whatever you need to make it sound desirable, or something that you want to do. So I really love that suggestion, that's definitely one that I've held on to that. It's like, okay, if I'm feeling resistant to rest, I'm going to I focus on like recovery, in that, like, I need to recover from a busy morning, or I need to recover from a night where I didn't sleep well. Or I need to recover from feeling overwhelmed. It makes it sound more enjoyable, or something that I want to do. So I love that. Thank you for that suggestion.
Suzy Reading 22:48
I'm so glad you said that, Jen, because what you're tapping into there is your own value system. So earlier, you were saying how do we how do we feel differently about rest? A really simple way is changing the dialogue around it. So if rest is associated with something that feels uncomfortable, well, let's take a look at what rest facilitates what's important in your life, that rest facilitates, and that is the thing that will help you feel different about restorative practices.
So some of the other images that I think can be really helpful is understanding that rest is energy management. And we've already talked about how we lovingly tend to our devices. So think about rest is recharging yourself, topping off a battery so that you can keep going, keep giving.
So we've got recharging, we've got replenishment, we've got nourishment, we've got sustenance, who doesn't want to sustain themselves? Like why would we have an issue with nourishing ourselves? It's such a nonsense. So well done for making that connection. Jen, that's so helpful. I hope that people listening to that will start thinking that Okay, so if that word doesn't work for me, what else can I use? Go to that word cloud? Pick a bunch, play with them. Make it your
Jenn Huber 24:00
own? Yeah, yeah, it really made all the difference. And I think I've been talking about this in my work and with people in on the podcast in different ways. I've often described it as, you know, what do you need to do to put your own oxygen mask on first, and making sure that your needs are met? You know, first, if you're someone who has to give a lot during your day to other people, which really is most of us most of the time, we can't be the afterthought, our needs can't be the afterthought.
And I work a lot with people who are you know, changing their relationship with food, and especially if they're maybe have experienced a lot of emotional hunger and emotional eating, when it boils down to it. It's needs that aren't met, that are driving that emotional hunger. And for me personally 90% of the time, I need rest, I need to stop I need to be able to just press pause. But because there are still parts of me that are influenced by this productivity culture, and I should quote unquote be able to do it. All, it's sometimes hard to, to really identify with rest. And so yeah, it's the values and how can you make it feel? Good? Because it makes all the difference?
Suzy Reading 25:12
I think you've you've, you've identified two really significant barriers there, Jen that come to mind, this, this association that rest needs to be some kind of reward for Yes, only get it when you've delivered. Yeah, also feeling like, you must clear your to do list first, before Yeah, go to the rest, like rest is something it only happens on the seventh day. Like it's can't Can we turn rests on its head and understand that it's not just something we do after the fact, it's actually the thing that we do proactively. First up, to fuel ourselves, so that we can actually think straight, so that we've got decision making capacity. So we've got the juice to actually do the job, right.
So do it as a way of, of preparing yourself. But also, knowing that you don't have to finish everything before you can take a break. Taking the break is the thing that's going to help you see the task through to completion. And let's also acknowledge that the the to do list is never ending. There's always going to be an obstacle WhatsApp, you know, another email another mouth to feed another thing decision to make. We've got to carve time to rest as a matter of fact. Yeah, yeah. It just has to be woven into everyday life, because that's what we need to function. That's it pure and simple.
Jenn Huber 26:41
I love that. And I think that that's a great place to wrap up this this chat, which I have so enjoyed. And so before. Before we end, I always ask my guests, what do you think is the missing ingredient in midlife?
Suzy Reading 26:57
Do you know what I, I've really thought long and hard about this and a few things that come up I was considering whether it would be something like or I think all hunting is a fantastic pastime, but it's bigger than that. It's bigger than that. It's I think it has to be self compassion. Yeah, it has to be self compassion. And I think this is another way that we can look at rest. Rest is self compassion, it is acknowledging a basic human needs coupled with the motivation to meet that need. That is what rest is. And the important thing to understand is that truly beautiful things come from that place of self compassion. Yeah, it's a mistake to think that being punitive is the thing that will help us step up and shine. It's not actually indigenous self forgiveness, kindness, and that's actually what the research shows. Yeah. Self kindness is the thing that allows us to acknowledge our mistakes to learn and grow and to do things differently. So he's, he's, he's to all the self compassion, all the tenderness.
Jenn Huber 28:09
Thank you, thank you, thank you. So if people want to learn more about you, where's the best place for them to find you?
Suzy Reading 28:18
Well, I put on my little notes to self up on Instagram, all of the little messages that are helping me get through my day that's that's a great place to come out. Come and hang out and be part of that genuinely caring, loving community. That's, that's the best place and that's where people can find out all about my books.
Jenn Huber 28:38
Great. And I will have those links in the show notes. So thank you so much, Susie, for taking time out of your day and for sharing your wisdom with us.
Suzy Reading 28:48
Such a pleasure Jen some real gems there. I'm loving this reframe of rest with those. You know, I hadn't stopped to think about how powerful that was. So thank you. You're really appreciate it.
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