The Power of Rest
It’s that time of year again.
The time when the cogs start winding down and our thoughts turn to sun loungers and leisurely snoozes on the beach. The Out of Office is on, you’re officially unavailable, return date clearly stated, forwarding contact primed and your well-earned time off is about to begin. Whether you are aware of it or not, with these few lines of your automatic reply, you are setting your boundaries of rest.This time last year, happiness scores peaked as we headed into summer as people downed tools for some much-needed R&R.
By doing less, we’re actually doing more. Taking time out is crucial for our mental and physical wellbeing, allowing us to reconnect with loved ones and take a breather from our routines and responsibilities… but it doesn’t stop there. We can’t create or innovate if we’re running on empty so stepping away from work can reboot our brains and allow us to approach tasks with refreshed enthusiasm.
Rest rewires the body, dramatically decreases stress and increases energy. There are two types of rest: passive rest and active rest. Passive rest is sitting in front of the TV or sleeping. In sleep, we grow new brain cells and we lay down and rewire memories. No sleep, no new brain cells. Active rest is more assertive, like taking a relaxing yoga class, going for a walk or working on breathing or meditation. Removing yourself from the stress of a situation by physically cultivating a new, calmer environment physically or mentally can help you recharge and rejuvenate. Rest can and should be active, goal-directed and conscious, rebuilding your body and your mind however you choose. Dr. Matthew Edlund in his book The Power of Rest outlines the four types of rest:
- Physical: From deep breathing to the “UnNap,” learn how to vanquish stress in seconds.
- Mental: Practice key strategies of relaxed concentration, and marvel at how much more you can accomplish.
- Social: even walking to lunch with a colleague can create a new sense of security and support.
- Spiritual: Experience a connection to something greater than the self, the key to internal balance.
He suggests doing at least one thing restful thing each day, many of which can be accomplished in a minute or less.
But for some, the thought of taking a break is fraught with anxiety. Creating extra work for colleagues, difficulty in handing over projects and worrying about missed opportunities can make people reluctant to take a break. Will you check your email? Will you action something if it comes in? Will you answer your phone if it rings? What if you remember something you forgot to hand over?
Our mindset and attitude toward time off are important and setting boundaries which are good for physical and mental health while allowing ourselves a permissive mindset to maintain those boundaries is key. Not resting properly can lead to overwhelm, increased risk of burnout, poor decision making and reduced problem-solving skills so the importance of setting clear and defined boundaries should not be underestimated.
T-Cup’s Flow and Mindfulness Consultant, Lucy Stone says it is important to take time for proper guilt-free rest and relaxation “So often we are juggling work and personal life, especially during the summer which can leave us feeling anxious and stressed. That’s why it is so important to set really good boundaries which work for you, and adopt a permissive mindset to stick to those boundaries. Everyone finds rest and relaxation in different ways, perhaps taking time to connect with your family or friends, to be in nature to get some good sleep and if possible some screen free time to rest your mind as well as your body.”
When we don’t take the time to rest, eventually it takes a toll on the body. Rest melts stress away, and research proves it. Herbert Benson, is the creator of the Relaxation Response, a method to invoke a state of deep rest. He has conducted numerous studies on the benefits of rest, and his research shows that practicing the Relaxation Response can actually lead to genomic activity changes. The Relaxation Response affects each of the body’s 40,000 genes, producing antioxidation and anti-inflammatory changes that reduce stress in the body. Practices like deep breathing, yoga, and meditation also lower our heart rates, blood pressure, and oxygen consumption, and alleviate hypertension, arthritis, insomnia, depression, infertility, cancer, and anxiety.
Rest is the original transformative technology. We need it to rewire and reboot so by embedding a culture of permissive rest into organisations, we can be pretty certain that this will bring a good ROI in terms of energy and outlook upon returning to work. Actively promoting proper rest periods and recharge days and encouraging staff to take their full quota of annual leave is an important step in alleviating the guilt that some employees may feel when taking time out.
We can’t progress without some degree of stress or be productive without effort but it should be offset with adequate downtime. Taking the time to raise your conscious awareness of stress vs rest and fine-tuning the balance between the two will set us up for success now and in the future.
So, if you’re struggling with holiday guilt, give yourself permission to rest to make sure you perform at your best.