The Importance of Rest

There is no doubt we are a culture that glorifies busy.

Conversations and interactions both in person and online are full of references to how busy everyone is. “I worked right through lunch every day this week!”, “I have so much to do I don’t know where to start!”, “I just can’t sit down and relax because all I can do is think about how much work I have!”. We have this idea that if we are not constantly “on the go” we will not be productive and effective.

The data on rest and effectiveness, however shows another story. Rest is not about being lazy or avoiding work. It is necessary for our health and for being at our best when we are working. Rest has been shown to improve cardiovascular health by lowering blood pressure and cortisol levels.

Research also shows workplace performance improves after a period of rest and recovery, even among people who enjoy their work. For those who are in creative jobs, they need rest in order to do their best work. A study from the University of York and the University of Florida found more than 40% of our creative ideas come during breaks and downtime, when our minds are free to wander.

There is another disadvantage to never allowing yourself or your mind to rest. If our schedules and our minds are too full, there is no room for anything new to come in. We can become so busy being “productive” that we leave no space for the marvelous, the miraculous, the beautiful, the amazing.  Life is not just about productivity. We are human BEINGS- not human DOINGS. We are inherently relational creatures who seek connection to others and to the Divine. There is no room for this connection when we forget that being human is about so much more than being productive.

In the Christian tradition if you read the Creation story, even God rested. I doubt this was necessary because God was tired. I think instead it was a lesson for us to understand the tremendous value of rest. It is in the stillness and quiet that the new can come. There have been many times when I have had clients who were people of faith, and they described wrestling with a problem for weeks or even months. They reported having prayed about the matter repeatedly with no solution. When I asked them how much time they spent in silence listening for the wisdom from God for which they had asked, they looked surprised. It never occurred to them to be still and silent. They had forgotten to rest and leave space for the answer to come in.

Allowing yourself to rest offers multiple advantages. It is good for your physical health, it helps you to recharge, and it makes space for the new and the wondrous to come in. Here are some practical ways you can find a little rest in your very busy day:

  1. Get up just 10 minutes earlier to give yourself time to sit in silence and breathe.
  1. If you are employed, take your lunch break. DO IT. The world will not end if you allow yourself time to enjoy a meal during your work day.
  1. Set aside a block of time each week that is your “do nothing productive” time. You can determine how long it is, but it is important to intentionally carve out time from your schedule, otherwise it might not happen.

Giving yourself the chance for some “down time” can improve your health, make you more productive, and creates space for new and marvelous things to come in. Be courageous enough to allow yourself to rest and see how your life can improve as a result.