By Leah Harris
There’s intense social pressure, especially around the time of New Year’s, to set goals to be better, grind harder, be more efficient, and ever-healthier and more well. In recent years, many are wisely beginning to revolt against New Year’s resolutions that reinforce the toxic cultural push towards relentless self-improvement and machine-like productivity.
One of the leaders of the rebellion is Dr. Tricia Hersey, known as the Nap Bishop, founder of the Nap Ministry, as well as author of the 2022 book Rest is Resistance: A Manifesto. While in divinity school during the early months of the pandemic and uprisings for racial justice, Dr. Hersey realized that prevailing expectations of productivity were traumatic, harming her mental and physical health. The seed of the idea that would become The Nap Ministry was born.
Hersey’s message is aimed specifically at Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, highlighting the role that systemic racism plays in perpetuating chronic stress and the deprivation of rest. As Emily Lawrence writes in Parade, “Research has shown that not only are people of color less likely to be afforded adequate rest than white Americans, but this lack of rest could exacerbate racial health disparities.” Lawrence notes that “The rest centered around the ‘rest as resistance’ movement is less about burnout and is rooted in Black liberation.”
For Dr. Hersey, rest is a process of decolonization from the programming of “grind culture,” white supremacy, and capitalism. “This culture does not want you rested unless it is attached to your increased labor and productivity,” she writes in Rest is Resistance. “No one will give you rest. This is an outlier investigation. A counternarrative. It is trust work. It is healing work. It is decolonizing work. It is a subculture holding space for the blossoming of a resistance.”
To those who argue that the ability to rest is merely a function of privilege, Dr. Hersey writes, “You are worthy of rest. We don’t have to earn rest. Rest is not a luxury, a privilege, or a bonus we must wait for once we are burned out. I hear so many repeat the myth of rest being a privilege and I understand this concept and still deeply disagree with it. Rest is not a privilege because our bodies are still our own, no matter what the current systems teach us.”
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Leah Harris is a non-binary, queer, neurodivergent, disabled Jewish writer, facilitator, and organizer working in the service of truth-telling, justice-doing, and liberation. They’ve had work published in the New York Times, CNN, and Pacific Standard. You can learn more about their work at their website and follow them on Instagram.