The difference between rest and collapse

You know those moments when you really want to rest / sleep / watch your favourite series (preferably 5 episodes in a row)? Usually when you are working on something new, or when you are about to dive into something that is challenging for you?

And there are those moments when you really want to rest / sleep / watch your favourite series (preferably 5 episodes in a row).

One is a collapse. And one is genuine rest. They look very similar. And yet they are radically different.

Puzzling out these distinctions has been a huge find for me, and still is. I see them confused around me a lot. In fact, this whole topic became a newsletter by request of a friend.

Collapse. And rest.

If you are anything like me (or most people I coach) you are an inherently sensitive person. Being in the world might require you to take more time off, and breaks, than the average Joe or Jane on the street. You have a clearer sense of when you need rest, turn down the stimuli and reconnect with yourself. It is not that others are not tired, but for you ‘just keep going’ is not an option anymore. You have likely resensitised yourself and you allow others and the world to impact you.You are also more in touch with your own needs, including rest (maybe you needed a burnout to get there, maybe it has been a more gradual process, like with me).

Rest is a really good thing. It is rejuvenating and restoring.

Collapse is resistance, that shows up as tiredness.

How to spot the difference? Well, collapse usually shows up when there is something at stake. A worldview, or a belief, or maybe you are stepping outside of your comfort zone. When there is something you do not want to face. For me it shows up a lot when I am on the brink of a new thing (new relationship, new step in my business, new branching out in a bigger way than I have before).

It shows up in different ways too, usually with some dialogue attached. Some favourites:

– “Who am I to…”
– “It is not really true that I…”
– “I can not believe / receive this..”


– “I really deserve this rest”
– “Yeah, it is much better to do X”
– “It does not have to be done today anyway..”
– “O look, kittens!”

And so on. I lay down and indulge. And yet: it is not restful. At all. Because in the back of my mind that story keeps playing, I feel anxiety, because I am not facing ‘the thing’, and I sort of hover on the threshold between complete denial and facing something. It is very unpleasant. To be honest, it really sucks. And on top of that I tend to judge myself (fiercely) for it too.

Sounds familiar?

Personally I hate being in that limbo space. But it has proven to be oh so seductive. There are times when I much rather collapse than face my fears and resistance. But not really. Catch my drift?

What helps me is: owning up to it. Calling a friend, sharing what is going on, and also discovering (usually in dialogue) what is really happening for me (“I am afraid to do this new thing”, “I am afraid of judgement”) and then do it anyway.

Because the fear is rather normal. And the collapse is simply there to keep you in the place you were in, to keep you ‘safe’. The trick is realising you are not in danger and it is going to be all right, even though it feels scary.

I wanted to do this new thing. And I am excited about it. And I am just hitting some resistance in the process of doing it. Which is actually very normal because we humans like comfort and safety, yet both we and the world are constantly changing. And once you get through your resistance, that is were the aliveness is.


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Coach, trainer & lover of all things human and relational. Supporting you in finding a deeper connection to yourself & others, so you can truly lead, wherever you are.

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