Rest is undervalued in today’s busy, work-from-everywhere world. But for most of human history, downtime in which we can recharge the mental and physical batteries we use while labouring was prized as a gift. Leisure provided the time and freedom for people to do what they loved. Today, though, it’s become the norm to think of work and rest as opposites. Work is active and valuable: it’s where we prove our worth and create a legacy. Busyness is a badge of honour, even a sign of moral superiority. Rest, in contrast, is often treated as if it’s passive and pointless. Many people hardly think of rest as something to desire. They think it is defined merely by the absence of work, and is therefore only something the idle do. We even make excuses for our interests, hobbies and pastimes by describing them as voluntary work experience and CV enhancers for future professional endeavours and monetary gain.
We go through life thinking we’re rested because we have gotten enough sleep. But in reality, we are missing out on the other types of rest we desperately need. Sleep or physical rest can bring some relief, but it’s just one of the seven forms of rest that help humans function well. The result is a culture of high-achieving, high-producing, chronically tired and chronically burned-out individuals. We’re suffering from a rest deficit because we don’t understand the true power of rest.
Taking a break isn’t lazy – learning to recharge is a skill that will allow you to enjoy a more creative, sustainable life.
The Seven Types of Rest
If your body lacks physical rest, you will be able to easily identify it. Your body will give you signs like heavy eyelids, body pain, headache, etc. There are two kinds of physical rest, active and passive. Sleeping comes under passive physical rest while active physical rest, on the other hand, is any activity that improves your physical well-being, like stretching or yoga.
There are times when you feel uninspired and out of good ideas. Creative unrest happens to people who overlap their careers with their passion. The divided attention and focus is what brings this unrest. Creative block is the result of creative unrest. Go for a walk every time you feel stuck. Gardens, parks or just plain nature can help in this scenario. We also suggest jigsaw puzzles as a form of creative relaxation! This is because jigsaw puzzles engage both sides of the brain. As we know, the left side is the more logical and analytical side, whereas the right side is the more creative and intuitive side. Jigsaw puzzles are perfect for getting those creative juices flowing again!
Brain fog is one of the most recent examples of mental unrest. Most of us have faced it when the pandemic was at its peak and working from home had just started. People working in the information and technology field are mostly deprived of mental rest. Use the technology for your benefit instead of letting it drain you. Set break alarms every two hours and use that time to reset yourself before heading back to work.
Ambient noise, bright lights, noise, traffic, the crowd can overwhelm your senses. The constant exposure to all these sources can leave you drained. Switch off all the electronics and lights once in a while and close your eyes and try to meditate. If you don't give yourself this break then the constant exposure will lead to sensory overload syndrome which happens when you’re getting more input from your senses than your brain can process."
Emotional unrest can make staying focused and productive difficult. When you aren't at your best emotionally, it can affect various aspects of your life. Vent out to your friend or someone who you are close to and feel safe with. Practise mindfulness by developing the ability to sit with difficult emotions.
As an escape from the stresses and strains of the day, many people seek an after work activity that allows them to think about something other than their jobs, and helps them to relax. We recommend jigsaw puzzles!
The importance of rest
Rest is as essential to a good life, and a productive career, as work. Overwork is bad for individuals and organisations: a long period without adequate rest burns people out and wrecks company productivity.
Recent work in neuroscience and psychology supports this approach to rest, illustrating how it allows us to recharge and stimulate creativity, whilst providing us the mental space to cultivate new insights, thereby leading to longer, more sustainable creative lives. Moreover, studies show that good rest is not merely idleness. The most restorative forms of rest are active, not passive. As such, rest is a skill. With practice, you can learn to get better at it, and will get more out of it.
We should therefore not regard work and rest as opposites, but partners. Each supports and justifies the other. Each provides things that every person needs. You won’t fully flourish unless you master both work and rest.
Take rest seriously.
To harvest the benefits of rest, you need to begin by recognising its advantages and carving out protected time for it in your schedule. If you’re particularly busy and highly driven, you need to give the benefits of rest a chance to manifest. Don’t rush it. Remember, rest is a skill that improves with practice. Just as it takes time to settle into a new job or place, or a few days to shift into vacation mode, so too will your mind require time to harness the power of rest.
Establish clear boundaries.
The people in high-stress jobs who have good work-life boundaries, take weekends off, and regularly take vacations are less likely to burn out than those who don’t. It’s fine for this time to be unstructured and unplanned. As they say, the only bad vacation is the one you don’t take. Cut down on work phone and email checks in the evenings and weekends; take your vacations; and recognise that clear boundaries between work time and personal time make both more effective.
Treat rest as a skill.
Don’t rush it – your mind will require time to start harnessing the power of rest.
Craft a daily schedule layering work and rest.
If you have control over your daily routine, don’t design a workday with long unbroken periods of work; instead, alternate periods of uninterrupted, highly focused work with breaks that recharge your batteries. Take a look at your calendar – is it stuffed only with meetings, deadlines and domestic responsibilities? If so, spend some time now thinking about when and where in your schedule you can start to make and protect some time for quality rest. No matter the specifics of your schedule, layering periods of work and rest, and matching critical work time to circadian highs encourages you to plan your time better, work more effectively, and create periods in the day when your creative mind can work on unsolved problems. This will thereby help you generate solutions that elude your conscious effort.
We also recommend you plan out the next day’s work at the end of the evening. Leave a note with the first three things to tackle the next morning. This way, you won’t flail around trying to choose what to work on - just follow the instructions you've left yourself.
Practise deep play.
A surprising number of Nobel laureates, CEOs, entrepreneurs and generals have serious, demanding hobbies such as sailing, mountain-climbing or painting – they provide an important diversion, offering the same rewards as work, without the challenges.
Don’t neglect sleep and naps.
Naps are a potent way to recharge during the day, while regular sleep patterns contribute to physical health, emotional stability and healthier ageing.
Encourage others to rest with you.
The more we can solve the problem of rest collectively, the better we all will be. This means building new restful habits with family, new rituals with friends, and new daily schedules with colleagues.
Puzzling can help quiet the mind while being in the present moment. When your attention is on colours, shapes and pieces rather than overthinking every which way, it creates a calming effect much like meditation. We recommend this unique shaped Frank Stella jigsaw puzzle.
Continue to experiment with your morning routine. At some point, it might well lose its effectiveness: our chronotypes (ie early bird vs night owl) shift as we age, the kind of work we do changes, our minds become too familiar with routines. But even if that happens, the fact that I’ve learned how to build a new practice means I have at least a decent chance of building another. We don’t just develop these routines so they’ll help us now. We develop them so we can develop more, and perhaps better ones, in the future.
This is basic maintenance, not self-indulgence. We can’t function forever fuelled by adrenalin and caffeine, fogged brains scrabbling to function, nerves frayed like a cheap phone cable. Sure, we can sleep when we’re dead, but a little rest before that would be nice.