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Rest, Relaxation, and the Power of Awareness

By Ashley Gibson, EdD.
COSEM Board Member
K-12 Educator, Founder of Interior Learning

As a High School educator, emerging academic, and curriculum writer, I am understandably always looking forward to a good nap! But after my naps, I also enjoy taking long walks on the nature trails behind my home. On the days when I prepare for a long walk, typically a 5K, I gather my walking shoes or sandals, a visor or cap, and, throughout this time of year, I load up on sunscreen, bugspray, and comfortable walking clothes. The most important aspects of my walking outfit, however, are my over ear headphones and my smartwatch, so much so that I will delay my walk until they are located and synced! 🙂 These items help me focus on the journey of the walk, and they help me tune out to the noise of the world and tune into myself. Something that I realize each time I nap and then embark on my walks, is that these moments represent an important restful and mindfulness habit where I take good care of myself, and that in a very real and tangible way, they help me care more for my community as well.

As we move into July, a month traditionally associated with rest and relaxation, it's essential to reflect on the deeper purpose of mindfulness habits and practices. Resting is not merely a pause from activity; it is a crucial element in fostering self-awareness, resilience, and community care (Martinez, 2023). At COSEM, we believe that intentional rest can be a form of resistance, empowering us to grow and better serve ourselves and our communities (Bookbinder, 2018).

In our fast-paced world, rest often gets misconstrued as laziness or stagnation. However, true rest is about more than just taking a break. It is about creating space to reconnect with ourselves, to listen to our bodies and minds, and to build a deeper understanding of our needs and desires (Brown, 2017). When we rest with intention, we cultivate a heightened sense of self-awareness, which strengthens our capacity for easefulness and self-care.

Self-care is intrinsically linked to community care. By nurturing our sense of self, we become better equipped to contribute positively to our communities. This reciprocal relationship means knowing when to seek help and when to offer it, when to stand up and fight for what is right, and when to put down our tools to rest. This balance is crucial for sustaining long-term well-being and effectiveness (Hersey, 2022).

“Rest as resistance” (Hersey, 2022) means rejecting the notion that our worth is tied to constant productivity. It is an act of defiance against burnout and a commitment to sustainable living. By prioritizing rest, we honor our boundaries and create a culture that values well-being over perpetual busyness.

Here are a few ways to practice intentional rest and build self-awareness this July:

  1. Mindful Moments: Dedicate time each day to mindfulness practices such as meditation, deep breathing, or simply sitting in quiet reflection. These moments of stillness can help you tune into your inner voice and better understand your needs.

  2. Physical Rest: Ensure you are getting adequate sleep and taking breaks throughout your day. Listen to your body and give it the rest it requires to function optimally.

  3. Creative Activities: Engage in activities that bring you joy and allow your mind to wander freely, such as drawing, writing, gardening, or playing music. These creative outlets can provide a refreshing mental break.

  4. Connect with Nature: Spend time outdoors, whether it’s a walk in the park, a hike, or simply sitting in your backyard. Nature has a unique way of grounding us and restoring our energy.

  5. Community Engagement: Foster connections within your community. Share your experiences and listen to others. Mutual support can enhance both individual and collective well-being (Martinez, 2023).

By integrating these practices into your routine, you can harness the power of rest and relaxation to become more self-aware and resilient. Remember, caring for yourself is the first step toward caring for your community. When you develop a deep sense of self, you are better positioned to contribute meaningfully to those around you, knowing when to step up and when to step back. This July, let’s embrace rest not as an end, but as a powerful tool for personal growth and community empowerment. Together, we can create a culture where rest is valued, and self-awareness is celebrated as the foundation for both individual and collective resilience.


About the Author

Dr. Ashley Gibson is a veteran K-12 in-service educator in Houston, TX. Her areas of passion and expertise include building capacity for teacher critical consciousness and restorative practices. She earned her doctorate in Learning and Organizational Change at Baylor University where her research and writing centered on intersectional learning communities, restorative practice facilitation, and enacting culturally sustaining pedagogies. She has taught in a variety of K-12 classroom settings, including advanced placement rhetoric and composition, and social action. Dr. Gibson’s broader research and writing interests are included at the intersections of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB). She also serves as a curriculum team member of Houston’s Project Curate, a faith-based social justice and activist collective, and enjoys reading, writing, teaching Zumba, and hanging out with her two cats James Baldwin and Mandy.


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FB: Ashley Gibson / Interior Learning

IG: @Interior_Learning

LI: Ashley Nicole Gibson

Works Cited

Brown, B. (2017). Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone. Random House.

Bookbinder, D. (2018). The Art of Balance: Staying Sane in an Insane World. Transformations Press.

Hersey, T. (2022). Rest is Resistance: A Manifesto. Little, Brown Spark.

Martinez, T. (2023, July 24). Building power for healthy communities: A decade of learning about power building from The California Endowment’s “Building Healthy Communities” initiative.


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