Thoughts on Restlessness

Sometimes I’m overcome with a feeling of unfinishedness. The day can go completely according to my whim and interest, and yet when it ends, my mind is active. I’m not done. I can’t relax. Even curling up under a blanket with a book, one of my favorite relaxing activities, won’t ebb the feeling that I’ve left something undone.

This can be called restlessness. Defined as “unquiet or uneasy, as a person, the mind, the heart,” or, “never at rest, perpetually agitated or in motion: the restless sea.”

These two definitions sort of mean the same thing, but also seem to have very different meanings when compared to the images that come to mind when you think “restless.” Being “unquiet or uneasy” seems more like the discomfort of my unfinished feeling. Being “never at rest” seems to be the opposite of that — if someone were never at rest, they would not find themselves in the feeling I’m describing: of having the potential to be at rest, and trying to rest, and being inwardly unable to.

Maybe restlessness requires the person to be suffering from their state (agitated), and this is what separates restlessness from industriousness. I can be at peace while not at rest, and peaceless when at rest.

My biggest fear when I’m restless is that is it a sign of something — my brain telling me that something is Wrong. And that I should listen to myself to fix the Problematic Thing. But when have changes been one-dimensional enough to be called ‘Problematic Things’ at all? Real changes are made after noticing long-term habits that are not healthy or not functioning. “Signs” from my brain are usually not signs. More likely, they are creeping anxiety, seeping in to say “I’m anxious!! Do something different!!” Perhaps because I feel restless much less often than I used to, the times when I do feel all the more incorrect.

So maybe anxiety and restlessness are inextricably linked. This somehow eases me — I know how to deal with anxiety, or at least, I know how to start. I don’t know how to start if something in my life is Wrong and needs fixing. But if anxiety is one tricking you into thinking that, there are a few courses of action to take.

You can talk a walk. If that doesn’t work, take another walk, exhaust yourself, fall asleep early.

Drink herbal tea.

Have a light conversation with someone else.

Remember that emotions do not always represent something larger. They are not you, they are an experience of being you. Restlessness is not wrong or right. It simply is.

And so I try to simply be.