The Lost Art of Rest

“Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves – slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future.”  –Thich Nhat Hanh


By: Jeff Mortimore, RSI Community Connector

Last week I heard the term “caution fatigue” for the first time. Caution fatigue has been observed in our everyday life, like when you ignore an alarm of some sort and don’t take it seriously because you have heard it many times before. Its onset can be caused by chronic stress, reaching our emotional capacity, and decreased sensitivity to what’s going on around us.

When the COVID-19 pandemic began to move more directly into our lane, we reacted with immediate preventative measures. However, as time went on, we started to get used to these abrupt changes and it became part of our daily routines. Caution fatigue started to creep in when the threat became less personal, although still disruptive. 

Stress, at various levels, affects all of us. It sometimes feels like we are all carrying a piano on our back. This past weekend, I  finally found the cure to all of our ills….REST. Okay, calling this piece about rest as lost art is probably a stretch. However, I believe that many people don’t do enough of it. The lack of true rest drains us to the point where we’re never really fully energized, fully present, or fully awake. It means our relationships start to lack energy and connection. It means we have a harder time feeling joy. I have caught myself taking breaks or finishing my workday, only to get on my phone or laptop for mindless drifting. It feels like the thing I want to do…when I have rest time. But, it’s not really rest. I don’t feel refreshed afterward, only more depleted.

So, what does true rest really look like? Further, what are the factors that keep us from enjoying this simple pleasure? For me, rest can feel unproductive. For someone like me who is dedicated to experiences and outcomes, this is the antithesis of a productive practice. We all have our own barriers, like time management, deadlines, emails, and other responsibilities that hold us back from truly resting. But the bottom line is that rest is critical to our well-being and productivity.

My new fascination with rest started early in the pandemic. I could see that my anxiety level was on the rise and I was terribly distracted by the daily updates from the White House pandemic team. So, I downloaded a meditation app on my phone and committed to a more disciplined meditation practice. This daily commitment opened the door to a more profound look at my mental state and starting my day by meditating became one of my better habits. Eventually, I wanted more. It may seem counterintuitive, but meditation enhanced my awareness and work focus. The simple act of closing my eyes and doing nothing was a great mental and physical break.

Of course, there are many other ways to achieve rest. Getting outside, connecting with nature, pulling weeds, or being fully present with a simple non-work activity like enjoying a cup of tea. This is a time to focus only on the activity and to drown out the nagging tasks, work topics, and personal struggles. The key is to make this the ONE thing you are doing. A single task. Give the activity your full focus. Give yourself time and space, savor the moment, and notice all of the sensations involved with the experience. If you find that your mind takes you in other directions, be kind to yourself and be curious as to why that thought flits into view. Then, simply start over.  Rest requires discipline, too!

Are you tired? Are you craving rest or an escape? If so, give yourself a few moments of true rest. Not by checking your phone, not reading or watching online feeds, but true rest. Ask yourself this throughout the day. You might find that you need more true rest than you realize.



Learn more about Jeff’s work at RSI on our Community Connections page.

Rethinking Fear

By: Jeff Mortimore, RSI Community Connector

I started to resume connecting 1:1 with the people I work with at RSI during this past week, and I was surprised by the array of emotions that I experienced. I must say that it was not like riding a bike, not even close. It was more like just focusing on balancing the bike! Remember what it was like when we first made the attempt to ride without training wheels? A little shaky.

However, after checking in with my sudden social anxiety, I was able to identify some of the challenges of the open road ahead. I, like so many others, have been obsessing about the virus. I have found myself paying extremely close attention to all facets of the pandemic, and tuning into news has become a habit.  I think that I’m trying to ascertain some level of certainty to ease my fears. The reality is that so much of this situation is a journey into the unknown.  

So, what do you do when worry seems to be the proverbial piano on the back? The solution, I think, isn’t found through more worrying. Rather, it’s doing all we can to achieve as much clarity as possible, and understanding that uncertainty is part of life. Doesn’t that help? I must say that I have now started to be a bit more mindful of the amount of news content I’m consuming. But, here are some things that really have helped me to fight a better fight:

Use the pause button. Shortly after the virus veered into my lane, I committed myself giving myself time for calm.  I adopted the practices of deep breathing and meditation. The bottom line is that I was being hijacked by the flood of thoughts and emotions, and running and escaping wasn’t working.

Embracing the fear. The best approach is to be aware of the risks that we face and do all we can to be prepared for any serious or imminent dangers. This is a scary time, especially for those who are more vulnerable to the virus. I realize that I am responsible for my own safety, as well as the safety of those in my community but that by looking at the science, there aren’t any unknowns to feed my fear.

It would do us well to give ourselves more credit, as we have all survived hardships and tackled obstacles at some point in our lives and seen the other side. Now is the time to connect with our bodies and minds, to allow ourselves some grace, and to sleep more restfully. It will not only help us to stave off the fear and anxiety, but it will have lasting positive effects for the rest of our lives.


Learn more about Jeff’s work at RSI on our Community Connections page.

The Power of Friendship

By: Jeff Mortimore, RSI Community Connector

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”
– C.S. Lewis

It’s a time of social distancing and practicing safe measures in order to remain healthy and to keep others safe. It’s pretty safe to say that for most of us, this hasn’t come easy. The truth is, that this self-imposed isolation has come at a cost to our health. Friendships are important to our souls, as they can increase our sense of belonging and purpose, and boost our happiness and reduce our stress. It’s even been said that having just a few intimate friendships can add years to our lives. So, this time of fear and uncertainty is a wonderful opportunity to take pause and review just how important friendships are in our lives. Oh, how we long for that time when we can see, hear, touch, and feel the meaning of true friendship.

When I first met Ben, he wasn’t one to talk much. Instead, he preferred to show me what was important to and for him. He happily showed me his collections, his videos, and his weather apps. Yes, he had three weather apps on his phone, and according to his team, he spent countless hours studying the weather radar patterns. He particularly liked violent weather, and thunderstorms made him light up with excitement.

It was an easy decision to introduce him to Adam Clark, Chief Meteorologist for KBJR in Duluth. I knew Adam to be very passionate about his job and he seemed engaging and approachable. So I set it up, a blind date of weather guys. Meeting new people can be hard, but I was unprepared for such a joyful connection and laughter when they first met. Adam cracked a joke, and off they went to the soundboard and satellite feeds. Have you ever met someone that just felt like an old shoe, comfortable and safe? It was an amazing thing to see, and I quickly removed myself to the fringes to watch this wonderful process unfold.

Throughout the last year, Adam and Ben have gotten together several times in person. Each time with the same level of joy and engagement, never wavering. When the pandemic hit this country, it caught Adam square in the crosshairs as he was in Europe at the time. Luckily he caught a late flight out of London and spent the necessary time in self-quarantine. Upon returning to his duties, he had to conduct his weather programming from his home. It was also during this time that he was offered a job to return to his home state of South Carolina.

I took Ben to meet with Adam on his last day at the station, and it was very bittersweet. They met each other just as they had the first time, with joy and laughter. Old friends. They promised to stay in touch and I sincerely hope that they do. It reminded me again of how simple it can be when another human being touches your heart.


Learn more about Jeff’s work at RSI on our Community Connections page.

Our Response to the Recent Events in Minneapolis

These past two weeks have been very difficult for Minnesotans. We are all struggling to understand the senseless and unjust murder of George Floyd and the conditions that exist that allowed that violence to take place. It is hard to know what our responsibility is as an employer and a healthcare provider in the face of such blatant hatred and discrimination.

Everyone at RSI has probably seen the discrimination that people with disabilities experience in our culture. The people we serve face this in our own communities. As caregivers and advocates, we are asked to stand up and speak out on their behalf. All of us have the responsibility to do what we can to end intolerance and injustice. This responsibility extends to everyone who suffers discrimination due to the color of their skin, national origin, sexuality, gender identity, religion, age, and family structure.

None of us can be silent when we see racial injustice. Racism is a long-standing part of discrimination and has created suffering and pain that many of us do not fully understand. Our country’s painful past includes hundreds of years of the type of violence we all witnessed in Minneapolis on Memorial Day. There are systems and structures in our country that feed disparities and discrimination. Laws change and promises are made yet equality and justice continue to escape communities of color.

When people experience fewer educational and economic opportunities and more health inequities just because of the color of their skin, our whole community suffers. The cost may not be as personal as it is for those who experience it firsthand, but there is still a cost. We all need to respond to that injustice by doing whatever we can to stand up for one another and be part of creating better outcomes.

Being different, whether it is because of the color of your skin or a disability should be seen as an asset to any organization and community. Appreciating our differences, and not just accepting them, will lead to a richer and stronger community for everyone.

Please look for ways you can help bring justice to marginalized people. It is needed now more than ever. RSI will also be looking and listening to our employees about what we can do better. We understand that there is much more work to be done in our communities, nationally, and within our own organization. RSI must examine our own place in these unbalanced systems, elevate and uplift the voices of our employees and the people we serve who experience discrimination, and we must put a plan in place to make sure we are doing more to create equitable, inclusive, and safe working and living spaces for people of color.

Changing Times

“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” ― Rumi

By: Jeff Mortimore, RSI Community Connector


We’re a couple of months into this lockdown and crisis, and it’s starting to wear on many of us. We continue to experience boredom, tiredness, and emotional exhaustion. We experience it as an ongoing burden and can’t wait for it to be over. We lose patience and want to do anything else but this. That all makes sense. It’s also exactly why we have difficulty sticking to habit changes, to long-term commitments, to ongoing projects, and long-running challenges. The good news is, with the boredom and tiredness we’re feeling from the lockdown and pandemic, we have the perfect practice ground. This is the time to practice, right when we’re feeling like not facing this difficulty.

It’s pretty clear that change is the one constant in our lives that will occur at some point. Strangely, change is the one thing that many of us resist and fear the most. As I look out my window today, I see so many people adapting to change by adopting new habits such as walking, enjoying nature, and getting outside in other ways. The trails I run on are now shared with people I have never seen before. Bike sales are up 121%, with most bike stores overwhelmed by demand. By the end of April, many stores and distributors had sold out of low-end consumer bikes. Now, the United States is facing a bicycle shortage as global supply chains, disrupted by the Coronavirus outbreak, scramble to meet the surge in about essential business!

My point here is, that in spite of the winds of the pandemic, I am seeing so many people committing to transformative change. Whether it’s because we suddenly have more time to consider the benefits, or whether we are now looking more within ourselves, people are changing. With uncertainty surrounding us, what a perfect time to consider the benefits of positive change in your life. If you haven’t yet considered a change in your life, or are somewhat resistant to change, know that whether you resist or adapt change will take place nonetheless.  The fact is that most people prefer to stay within their comfort zone, but I’m a firm believer that if you are the one that initiates change, it will be easier to adapt. So, how do we get ahead of change and develop a more proactive mindset? Perhaps it might help to look at the benefits of change as a reward system to develop a new perspective.

Personal Growth: When you look back at some of the past changes in your life, are you not a better person for it? For many of us, our greatest changes came with a pretty high level of resistance. But, having the gift of retrospection, today you can see the benefits that change made brought to your life.

Flexibility: We all have the gift (or curse) of our own belief system. Our belief system governs how we adapt, adjust, or resist new experiences. Frequent changes make it easier to adapt to new situations, new environments, and new people. As a result, there isn’t as much of a shock when experiencing abrupt changes.

Resilience: I love the power of resilience, but unfortunately, resilience can only be learned through experience. It is built through the process and the experience of dealing with adversity. But, resilience has everything to do with change and the personal power to adapt and overcome the situation.

The snowball change:  I’m not a huge fan of clichés, but there is the saying “as one door closes, another opens.” I can’t tell you how many times my own personal change has come through failure or disappointment. Often we give up because we cannot accomplish the difficult task of making a significant and immediate change. That is when small changes become extremely valuable. Though one shift at a time, small changes will eventually lead you to the desired big one.

Each change in our life is about turning a new page and creating a new chapter. When you think about it, what would your life really be like if it always stayed the same? We all long for change, but sometimes we hesitate when it comes. So next time you get the temptation to avoid or resist, aim instead to initiate the experiences that will lead you to where you want to be.

And remember—if there were no change, there would be no butterflies!


Learn more about Jeff’s work at RSI on our Community Connections page.