When we feel overwhelmed, stressed or just plain busy, getting more rest is often the last thing on our minds.
When we feel under pressure in any way, and particularly when we feel short on time, the temptation is to keep pushing through.
How often do you tell yourself you’ll rest, just as soon as you get this, that or the other thing done? I know I’m guilty of doing it.
But denying ourselves the opportunity to rest isn’t the smart thing to do.
Not only does it negatively affect our mental and physiological well-being, but trying to get more done when we aren’t getting sufficient rest often backfires.
We make mistakes, we forget things, and often things end up taking longer.
Ignoring our need to rest perpetuates the cycle of overwhelm.
In this post, I’m going to discuss why getting sufficient rest is important, and suggest 5 ways you can incorporate more rest into your day (even when you are busy).
But first things first, what does it mean to rest?
I like the following definition:
Rest (verb): cease work or movement in order to relax, sleep, or recover strength
Why is rest important?
There’s no doubt about it, when you are sufficiently rested life just runs more smoothly.
- Enhances your creativity and problem solving abilities
- Replenishes your energy
- Increases your ability to focus
Sufficient rest also makes it easier for you to see the bigger picture.
When you don’t feel bogged down in the day-to-day minutia – you can connect with your values, your vision or your ‘why.’
It’s easier to see if you are heading in the direction of your goals and the life your want to live, or whether you are veering off-track.
Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes…including you.Anne Lamott
Rest beyond sleep
Undoubtedly sleep is the most important aspect of rest, and prioritising a good night’s sleep is one of the best things you can do for your well-being.
Read more: 7 Self-care Tips to Help You Sleep Better
But while getting a solid 6-8 hours of sleep at night the best way to recharge and rejuvenate, rest shouldn’t end there.
Meaningful rest is an important part of a productive day.
In fact, in the same way that a rest in a piece of music (a moment of silence) is crucial to the overall sound of the piece, days that incorporate moments of rest flow better, and have a more satisfying rhythm than those without.
Athletes know the importance of rest too. They know that they can’t keep training continuously – that rest gives their muscles the opportunity to repair, rebuild and strengthen. Rest is crucial for restoring strength and preventing fatigue. It allows their bodies to adapt to the stress they will be under in their next training session.
Beyond the physiological necessity of rest, athletes also know that rest is important for their mental well-being. While it may not always feel easy for them to take a rest day, they do it because they see the bigger picture – they know if they want to achieve their big goals that rest is essential.
No one questions the importance of a rest in a piece of music, or in the training schedule of athletes. But when it comes it our own lives, rest often falls by the wayside. We don’t see rest as important, or worse, we feel guilty for doing it.
So how can you ensure you get sufficient rest?
Here are 5 simple ways you can incorporate more rest into your day.
5 ways to incorporate more rest into your day
1. Take regular breaks
When you plan your day be sure to include breaks into your schedule.
And by break, I mean a proper break – away from your screens.
Screens are such a significant part of modern life, whether it’s our smartphone, laptop, or TV – and I’d never suggest ditching screens completely.
That said, it is important for our health and well-being to take regular breaks from them, even if it’s just for 5 minutes.
2. Pause between tasks
When you finish a task, before rushing to tackle the next one on your list, take a moment to pause. A pause doesn’t need to take long, but it’s an important opportunity to rest and reset your mind and body.
Use it to get up from your desk, look out the window, move to a different room, stretch or focus on your breathing for a few moments.
Read more: How a Little Pause can have a Big Impact
3. Practice Meditation or Mindfulness
The benefits of mediation and mindfulness are widely documented. We can gain so much by taking a few moments to practice meditation or mindfulness during our day.
I love the Zen proverb “You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day – unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.”
It reminds me that if I ever feel that I am too busy that I can’t spend 20 minutes on my well-being then I need to seriously contemplate what it is that I am spending my time on.
Full disclosure here – I don’t practice 20 minutes of mediation every day. I do however practice 5 minutes of meditation most days as part of my morning routine, which also incorporates yoga and a mindfully enjoying a hot cup of tea.
4. Read (or listen) to a book
Reading is one of my absolute favourite things to do. I love losing myself in a good novel, and learning new skills or discovering new ideas via non-fiction books. As an ex-librarian, my love of books will never die 🙂
Reading, or listening to a book is a wonderful way to incorporate more rest into your day. Time spent reading (or listening) for pleasure, even if it’s only 5 or 10 minutes gives us the opportunity to unwind and recharge.
If you’d like to fit more reading into your life, Gretchen Rubin has some great pointers in her article 13 Tips for Getting More Reading Done.
5. Go outside
I’m not suggesting a run, a hike, or a bike ride or anything particularly energetic. Nor am I suggesting you do anything particularly ‘productive’ such as weeding the flowerbeds or cutting the grass. I’m talking about going outside for the pure pleasure of being outdoors.
The Norwegian concept of friluftsliv captures this idea beautifully.
Friluftsliv is all about slowing down and reconnecting with your natural surroundings. It’s about detaching from the need to be doing something, going somewhere or achieving something.
Ditch the distractions (such as your phone) and just take in your surroundings. What can you see, what can you hear, and what can you feel?
Daily moments of rest are key to our health and well-being, and those days when we feel overwhelmed or too busy are precisely when we need to prioritize more rest.
These moments of rest don’t need to take a lot of time, but they have a positive impact on what we can accomplish and how we feel at the end of our day.
Why not try incorporating just a few of these ideas for more rest into your day and experience the benefits first-hand.