Samantha Leal discovered two things when coming face-to-face with mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion. She realized that on top of needing a change of scenery, her unrelenting work ethic and inability to allow herself to rest were both getting in the way of her overall wellness.
“There’s inherent trauma in the ways we’ve lived and in the ways our body remembers the trauma from our ancestors,” Leal tells POPSUGAR. “For many of us Latinas/Latines/Latinxs, work and manual labor is a part of our DNA. Quite literally.”
For 14 years, Leal, 35, has worked as a professional writer, penning stories for a variety of publications. The Mexican-American New Yorker by way of South Bend, IN, hustled in the city that never sleeps for 11 years before facing the reality that a geographical shift was exactly what she needed. At the end of July 2021, Leal packed up her bags and headed west to Los Angeles, knowing that she’d one day return to New York City. She is currently still in sunny California.
“In LA, everything is intentional — everything is planned,” she explains. “That’s not how it is in New York City; you walk out your door, and you don’t know if you’ll be returning in an hour with a new book or in 15 hours with six new best friends and a wine buzz. The city is, in itself, a plan.”
While Leal loves the fast-paced energy of NYC, her need for rest took priority for the first time in her life, and she wanted to bring others along for the ride. Interestingly enough, in order to prioritize rest, Leal got to work creating Rest in Action. Along with her move to LA in 2021, she launched this guide of resources, opportunities, and practices to support folks in putting rest in action.
“Rest is inaction, yes, but it’s also an action,” she says.
Leal was greatly inspired by the tenets of Tricia Hersey’s Nap Ministry, which details that rest doesn’t need to be earned, rest is deserved, and rest is a form of resistance.
“I was, like many people, exhausted and depleted and didn’t understand how to really rest,” Leal says. “Like, what does one do? How do you actually rest in a world that requires you to work to put food on the table? How does one rest in a world consumed with the idea of output?”
She started the newsletter as a way to examine how to navigate our current society and the need for rest. The newsletter details a variety of ways to rest and reset conditioned mindsets that create blockages to embracing the art of relaxation.
“Perhaps most importantly, it’s a list of resources (scholarships, getaways, retreats, etc.) that help to make rest happen,” Leal says about the newsletter. While in her natural state of creation mode, Leal still focused on her own newly prioritized need for rest.
“To do this, I didn’t put so many parameters on how many times this would come out a month,” she explains. “I’m currently in the midst of relaunching the newsletter because I feel like we’re still grappling with this issue. I want to be able to put more into this for others.”
As she does, she pours more into herself at the same time.”I live a 10-minute walk from the beach. I can walk, take in the sound of the waves, and my body feels a sense of calm,” Leal describes. “I miss the spontaneity of New York City, but I also love the slowness of Santa Monica. I wish I could marry the two.”
Now that Leal has found a more serene way of living her day-to-day life, she is still in the process of finding ways to balance the innate need to work hard like her immigrant parents and the generations that came before them. One way she does this as a freelance journalist is to allow herself only one day per week when she works late.
“It may cost me money, but it saves me in other ways,” she says, adding how she’s found comfort in communicating her need for more hours and extended deadlines. “Transparency and proactiveness are key for rest.”
Leal also says that letting go of thinking that people are going to be mad at you and understanding the importance of having a routine, good sleep, and nonwork time are also keys to rest.
“I always make time for it because my health, my well-being, my happiness depend on it,” she says, also acknowledging that as a freelance writer, “I am very privileged in the way I get to navigate my time for rest, but I hope that everyone knows that they can make time for rest.”
For Leal, leaning on others and the community are both important components of how to make that time. In her personal journey, Leal has found a beautiful way of celebrating her life while living responsibly. As a Latina who grew up poor, she is extremely responsible with investing and financial literacy. But she also allows herself certain luxuries, which she enjoys guilt-free.
“I’m the first in my family to get to choose a career based on passion rather than survival,” Leal says. “With that comes a responsibility to myself and to my future life.” While she’s writing, editing, and consulting for brands and agencies around all things lifestyle, as well as hosting events, moderating, and speaking on panels related to the Latine market, mental health, and women’s issues, Leal is also living it up in her spare time.
“I love spending money on experiences (including travel) and spending with abandon when doing so,” she says, explaining how that includes things like going to amazing restaurants, enjoying an expensive glass of wine, and luxury-spa moments to indulge in rest.
“I’ve budgeted for it, and other parts of my life don’t have expenditures,” she says. “I rarely shop for clothes, I’m extremely good at making things (like food, toiletries, etc.) stretch. My family grew up poor, and it’s in this legacy that I learn. For them and for myself.”
Additionally, Leal’s work includes writing about travel and experiences for a living, and it assists in her frequent travel, so she’s not spending out of pocket. Her trips are covered by brands and outlets based on assignments. She then connects her accounts to the booked travel so she can earn frequent-flier miles, points on hotels, and other luxuries that she can later use for rest and relaxation.
“All my expenses go on a travel credit card, which also earns me plenty of miles and points,” Leal says. “I take a couple of small trips and then one big vacation a year on my personal time, and they’re more than often paid for by these miles and points.”
Following burnout in her mid-20s, Leal has learned to make her work work for her rest. She adds that self-worth is another huge component to enjoying a healthy work-life balance and freely embracing abundance. After all, that work-hard mentality passed down through generations also came with a scarcity mindset that was instilled early on in childhood. So, just like she pays her bills, Leal finds her experiences, her time, and her perspective all worthy of payment and abundance as well.
“The more I understood this, the more [things] freely flow to me — money, opportunities, experience,” she says. “The best thing you can do for rest and abundance is to say no. Say no, and know that more is coming.”
This unapologetic approach to her wellness is not only a source of inspiration, but for Leal, it is a duty for her to advocate for change so that we all thrive.
“I detest the idea of hustling,” Leal says. “We should not have to have a side hustle to make ends meet. We should not have to hustle to be able to afford our medical bills. We should not have to grind until we’re 80 to ‘partially’ retire.”
Leal is an advocate for rest because she knows first-hand that it is an act of resistance against a capitalist society, which makes it nearly impossible for people to exist without working themselves to mental and physical exhaustion and spiritual unrest.
“When people recognize these things and advocate for things like minimum-wage laws and employee protections, we can move the needle when it comes to work and rest,” Leal says. “Helping one another creates more opportunity and connection (and community and rest) for us all.”