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Invest in your day of rest

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”
~ John Lubbock,The Use Of Life

Go, go, go. That seems to be the message of modern society.

Achieve, acquire, evolve, become, push, push, push. The mantra is preached everywhere we turn. Some of the best marketing messages echo that sentiment. I concur. Life is about forward motion, setting goals, making plans, and living fully. However…

Hidden behind the message of “do more” is the advice to occasionally do less. Nestled in the message of get up and get after is the message to slow down and rest.

As a kid, you likely shot rubber band bullets at your friends. Remember? You would take a rubber band and pull back on it hard enough that when you let it go, it could fly across the room like a missile and smack your best friend (or your worst enemy) on the neck. Perhaps you spent more than a few afternoons visiting with the principal because of your rubber band antics. But, just maybe, when the principal parked you in a hard wooden chair and told you that you should “think about what you did,” you realized as I did that the farther back you pulled the rubber band, the farther it launched.

Lest you think this tenet of physics is only good for your classroom antics, you might consider that the same is true of your life. As you pull back from work, meetings, deadlines, key performance indicators, and all the other word salad employers use to try to squeeze another percent of productivity out of you, the more effective you will be when it is time to perform.

Rest is vital to your success, especially in transition. But there isn’t a single time in your life when you shouldn’t consider resting. In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, people work hard to afford houses they rarely see. Their pools remain empty, and the water is still. Their bookshelves are dusty from lack of use. Their children, whose growth should be imperceptible to them, appear to grow into adults overnight because they spend so little time with them.

Americans rank surprisingly low on the list of vacation time offered to their employees. But it doesn’t much matter when you consider the number of American workers who leave days and days of vacation time on the table year after year. Why offer more if people won’t take the vacation time they have?

According to Insider Magazine, the French are legendary for their love of vacation time. As children, you might remember being told that

Europeans were lazy and unproductive because they took a lot of vacation time. The propaganda machine was on high alert in its attempt to convince us that American superiority relied on working ourselves like rented mules.

Evidence of the French’s approach is everywhere if you visit in the summer, especially in August, when many embark on their month-long respite. Contrast that with the average American, who receives an average of twelve days off but only takes an average of ten. A CNBC poll published in December 2019 suggests that half of the vacation time Americans earn is forfeited, to the tune of $65 billion worth of vacation benefits that go unclaimed. Much of it doesn’t transfer over to subsequent years. It is a time of rest and relaxation that is just lost.

But the whole story is a lot more dire. We tend to work constantly. We take phone calls on our commutes to and from work. Many people work during our weekends, holidays, and vacations. We’ve all seen the man or woman sitting in a beach chair under an umbrella with the glorious ocean as their God-painted canvas. But he or she is on the phone, closing a business deal. And let’s not even talk about the people who take their phones with them into the bathroom while talking to clients and colleagues.

We are good at being engaged. We stink at disengaging.

“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”
~ Anne Lamott

Many religious and spiritual disciplines include a time of rest in their practice, encouraging their followers to take time to relax the body, mind, soul, and spirit.

But even those who do not follow any religious discipline should seriously consider their habits around rest time. Taking time to read a book, take a bath, take a walk, or just lay in bed and watch a good movie is food for the soul. Taking that time just to breathe and be has an impact on how you function on the other days of the week.

A rest day is a great time to pull out your journal, not just for reflection (which is a fantastic rest day activity) but also for advancing some goal you had buried in your heart. This doesn’t mean doing research, making big plans, or getting stressed. It means allowing yourself to dream, meditate, or imagine what it would be like to have achieved that worthy goal. Place yourself in that new home, running that successful business, being nurtured in that loving relationship, all while never moving from your easy chair.

For those who are transitioning, the day of rest is a tempting time to skip the rejuvenation, and refreshing rest can bring and fill it with all the things necessary for the transition that didn’t get done during the week. I would caution against that. As I have stated frequently throughout the book, taking the time to rest becomes vital when you are in transition because of the stress and tension such times can cause. You need your mind to function at its highest capacity during these seasons.

If you tend to skip your exercise during the week (I hope you aren’t doing this), be sure to get your exercise in on your rest day. You might wonder why I would include exercise as a rest-day activity. It is because you will exercise differently when you have no time limit than you will when you are trying to squeeze in a session of exercise before or after work or some other time during the day.

On your rest day:

  1. Put nothing on a schedule. Allow the day to develop and unfold organically, for the most part.

  2. Avoid conflicts of all kinds as best you can.

  3. Avoid toxic people who will rob you of the invigoration you are seeking. If they live in your home, spend your rest day at a friend’s or family member’s home.

  4. Spend time in person or virtually with a friend who makes you laugh.

  5. Do what you want, not what you must.


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