Disclaimer – just my humble opinions and life experience here…
I subscribe to the mantra, ‘a change is as good as a rest’. Or, rather, ‘a change is the sameas a rest.’
Rest for me isn’t just about sleep, relaxation, meditation and quiet stillness. It’s about balancing out my work activities and daily obligations with their ‘opposites’ to support me in doing these activities and obligations whilst providing a whole bucketload of benefits that make life more bearable, enjoyable and worthwhile.
Rest is good for us?
Yeah – you know this already.
For me, rest (including the types of ‘active rest’ I talk about more below):
- improves my mental and physical health
- improves my ability to enjoy work
- improves my ability to produce better work, faster, due to allowing my subconsious to do the work for me
- improves my will power when forming new habits
- improves my motivation so i need to rely less on my will power
- allows time for reviewing how work and life is going
- encourages a more objective perspective of my work and life, and because of this
- allows for better prioritisation of goals
What’s the best kind of rest?
For me, the most rejuvenating, truly replenishing form of rest is to do the opposite of what I’m doing during work or the rest of the time. It’s likely I’m doing something for its intrinsic value rather than monetary compensation (aka hobby) or utility (e.g. learning Japanese). I’ll often do something new that I’ve chosen deliberately so I can be properly crap at it – just so I can really revel in my ineptitude.
- if my work is creative i.e. inventing and decision making, making disparate connections, then i might do something physical, where the decisions are made for me e.g. baking a cake with a clear recipe, assembling some flatpack furniture (with clear instructions!).
- if my work involves doing something i’m skilled in and find easy, i might try learning a new skill i’ve never done before, or that scares me a bit (or a lot), or that i’m pretty much guaranteed to be rubbish at.
- if my work is at a computer, then i could do something analogue, without a screen. Something real world. Perhaps something with a big, distant panoramic vista – a walk with a view, some big trees, a beautiful garden, some huge, sprawling architecture.
- if my work has involved meetings, communication, or collaboration, then i’ll definitely head off to be on my own for a decent amount of time.
- if my work has involved sitting (which it always does), then i need to do something physically active.
- if I’ve worked in solitude for a great deal of time (and I do rather crave more solitude than most, but there’ll always come a point where I need a little time with fellow humans), I sometimes seek out busy-ness – a coffee shop, a face-to-face conversation, maybe a trip to the town centre.
- if my work has involved some extreme concentration (where I’m probably holding my breath a lot) and visual scrutiny (where I’m probably not blinking enough), then I can easily sit for 5 minutes with my eyes closed listening to the slow in and out of my breath.
How much rest does one really need?
Do you feel relaxed yet alert, fresh, positive, motivated, generous, open, hopeful and do you experience states of flow on a regular basis? If so, you’ve had enough; get back to work. If not, you know what to do.
But I feel so selfish and guilty for taking rest breaks…
Don’t we all. What a rubbish society we live in for that to be the norm; how completely short-sighted that we inflict such states upon our own selves at the mere thought of taking time to do something so incredibly valuable to us and the humans around us.
Think about it rationally. If it helps:
- your mental health
- your relationships
- your ability to cope with stress
- your effectiveness at work
- how much you enjoy work
- and life
… perhaps it’s time to flip it around. Is it time to start feeling guilty and selfish about nottaking time to rest?
But I don’t have time!
If it’s important, you can make the time. If it’s important, schedule it in, like you would an appointment, meeting or any work commitment or life obligation.
Start small, and build up gradually. Or take the leap and move to a four-day week. You do you.
If it’s important for you to aim to be the best human you can be, for as much of the time you have on this planet, for the sake of yourself and everyone around you, whilst enjoying the heck out of it, then you know what you’ve got to do.
What are your strategies for rest? How will you make time?