Our weeks are filled with day jobs, side-hustles, meetings, appointments, errands, exercise, cleaning, cooking, home improvement, lawncare, paying bills, obligatory social events — and if you have kids — homework, sports practices and games, school projects, and a myriad of social events. That’s not even counting the extras in your own personal life, which might involve caring for an elderly parent, volunteering for a non-profit, tending to the needs of pets, or taking college courses at night.
We are designed to work and care for each other, but we were also meant to rest regularly. Look no further than our circadian rhythm, which proves we need eight to ten hours of sleep each night. No one is so invincible that they can forgo sleep and not suffer the consequences. Consider rest as preventative medicine, not a waste of time. These breaks can be as brief as 20 minutes while at work or as lengthy as going on vacation for two weeks.
A weekly day of rest is very beneficial, as is observed by most major religions. You don’t have to be a Jew, Christian, or Muslim to benefit from this, and it doesn’t have to be a specific day of the week. Choose the day that makes sense with your schedule and guard that time like treasure.
The idea behind the rest day is to purposefully give yourself a mental and physical break from all the stress the week brings, recharge, and refocus on what truly matters in life. For most, this involves preparing food and tidying the home a day or two before, so the day isn’t spent cleaning or cooking. Think about what you would normally do on that day and plan a time to accomplish those tasks ahead of time. Personally, our family sleeps in, recharges spiritually by attending church, consumes delicious pre-prepared meals, plays board games, enjoys quality time outside in nature, watches a movie, and just takes it easy. Our rest day is everyone’s favorite day of the week because it is so refreshing and fun. This is not time wasted, but the most well-spent 24 hours in our week.
Working more = less productivity
A Stanford study showed working over 50 hours per week drops your productivity dramatically due to physical and mental exhaustion. The study said those working 70+ weekly hours are only as productive as others who worked 55 hours. When working 50+ hours, we all become more fatigued, stressed, and less efficient, which can lead to errors in work, injuries, and burnout. Taking breaks from work can actually help improve productivity.
Rest benefits mental and physical wellness
Taking time to relax can ease the mental stresses of work. Most of the time, an email or phone call can wait if you intentionally carve out time to decompress. Give the mind time to relax and wander, put away the distractions of work, and focus on quality time with family, friends, or time alone to take care of yourself.
Being constantly stressed can also cause chronic, low-level inflammation within your body. This can lead to a host of problems such as lowering your immune system or making you more susceptible to bacteria and viruses. Getting sick may lead you to take more days off, which piles on more work, causing more stress. Not getting enough rest can even trigger underlying health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and GI issues such as irritable bowel syndrome.
Find Solutions to Challenging Situations
Begin addressing the root cause of your stress and brainstorm possible solutions. Perhaps you can postpone a deadline, take a power nap, delegate or outsource a task, talk to a friend, or communicate your needs in a challenging relationship. Remember, if you take care of yourself, you can do your job more effectively.
Constantly thinking about work isn’t good. If your job is stressful and requires critical thinking or you are working on a complex problem, try taking a break. I have worked countless hours trying to find solutions to problems with no success. After leaving it alone for hours, days, weeks, or months, I revisit the situation with a fresh mind and perspective, only to find the problem resolved itself or a creative solution surfaced. It’s not procrastinating, rather, it is smart to take time when making decisions, to seek wise counsel, and give space before making an emotionally charged decision.
Reignite your passion for work
Taking a mental break and not thinking about work can help you rekindle your passion for your job. Having this quiet time gives the brain the ability to purposefully not think about problems, which gives you a fresh mind and attitude when you jump back into work. Taking time off gives you the opportunity to reflect on your job, life, and relationships. This break will either help you see how good you have it, or it will give insight into changes that need to be made.
Inspirational author Alan Cohen concisely communicates this concept by writing, “There is virtue in work, and there is virtue in rest. Use both and overlook neither.”