Does the idea of taking rest make you feel guilty? Do you struggle to switch off from work and just be? Are you someone who works in spite of having a day off?

If your answer to any of these questions is a yes, then know that you’re not alone. With the world we live in today, rest is considered to be an indulgent activity that many people feel guilty even thinking about! A lot of us are under the impression that working more will help create more time for rest – but in reality, the more consumed you get with work, the harder it is for you to take a step back from it.

This can further get worse if we procrastinate – that is, wait until the last minute to get work done. We often mistake time spent procrastinating as resting, mainly because productivity levels are generally low during this time. But it’s important to note that procrastinating is not the same as actually taking a break. The quality of this “rest” is not satisfying enough and you may actually end up thinking about the fact that you have too many things to work on. So, essentially, even though you are not working while procrastinating, you’re not switching off from work either.

The idea behind rest is not to neglect your commitments or expect someone else to take over. Rather, it means that you simply make an effort to strike a balance between working and looking after yourself. Without rest, you’re eventually going to reach a state of complete mental and physical exhaustion. For instance, those who feel the need to workout every day of the week typically forget to consider that resting after a heavy workout is what actually helps the muscles repair and grow. In fact, over-training your body without incorporating a recovery phase can lead to serious injuries, such as stress fractures, joint pain and even dislocations. Avoiding rest can even create hormonal imbalances in the body, which can lead to serious concerns such as weight gain, depression, chronic exhaustion and premature aging. 

On the other hand, when you allow yourself to rest, your body and mind are able to recover from the stressors you deal with each day. Moreover, research shows that people who regularly take out time for rest feel more productive and energised throughout the day. Rest days can even contribute to better mental and physical health. Rest can help you combat depression, stress, and anxiety; it can reduce muscle fatigue, improve focus and even boost the quality of your sleep. 

Many people are hesitant about taking rest – fearing piling up of workload or being labelled as ‘lazy’ or ‘slacker’. Additionally, people are generally bad at assessing when their body needs some downtime. This is mainly because we tend to focus on the short-term advantages of getting work done, rather than the long-term costs of avoiding rest that our body and mind need.

So if you’re struggling to find a balance between work and rest or simply want to make rest time more meaningful, we have a list of strategies that can help.

Make a realistic to-do list

To-do lists help us stay organised and on top of things. But they can quickly become overwhelming if we continue piling on tasks mindlessly. Doing too many things at once can be very harmful to your productivity, and can leave you feeling tired and irritated. At times, it might not be possible to tackle all tasks on your to-do list. While you may be tempted to work overtime and get done with the work, it’s important to recognise that work will always be there. Instead of trying to complete multiple things in your day, make a list of tasks and then identify the ones that are urgent and important. This can help you prioritise and focus on critical tasks. 

Incorporate restful breaks

While making your to-do list, you can even write down how long you will take for each task. This will give you a sense of how much time you are planning to spend on work each day. If you find that you have planned for too much or are spending a lot of time on relatively unimportant tasks, rework your to-do list and weed out some items if required. Moreover, when you plan your day, be intentional about incorporating time for rest. Take regular breaks throughout the day and do something small and simple to energise yourself. You can have a glass of water, talk to a loved one, or even go for a short walk. Even 5-minute breaks can give you some rest and help you feel motivated when you get back to a task.

Re-evaluate your thoughts about rest

When presented with the idea of resting, you may think of different reasons for avoiding the same. But what if you just stopped what you were doing for a minute, closed your eyes, and stretched out your neck muscles? How would you feel? Would this short period of rest really interfere with getting your work done? In all likelihood, it won’t – in fact, this simple action will help relax your tense muscles. When you find yourself resisting the idea of rest, pause and ask yourself, “What am I thinking?” Try to capture your thoughts and evaluate if they are rational/helpful or not.

Practice meditation

For decades, researchers have emphasised the benefits of meditation on the body and mind. Even practised for a few minutes, meditation can ground you to the present – making you experience a sense of calm. The best part about meditation is that there are multiple variations to choose from. 

You can start off with a very basic mindful breathing exercise; here, all you have to do is concentrate on your breath. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth allowing your breath to pass through your body smoothly. Let go of thoughts about your day and simply focus on the moment you are currently in. Even a minute or two of mindful breathing can help you feel rested and energised.

Be proactive about sleeping better

Are you sleeping for an adequate amount of time every day? More importantly, are you aware of the quality of sleep you are getting? Sleep has a huge impact on how you feel throughout the day. The ground rule with sleep is to set a realistic sleep schedule that you can follow even on the weekends. Make sure you get 7-9 hours of sleep daily, and engage in a series of relaxing activities to unwind before you go to bed. This will improve the quality of sleep you get – which in turn will help you feel well-rested and ready to take on the day ahead of you. 

Learn how to say ‘No’

This is a tricky one that most of us struggle with. If you’re not used to being assertive, it can be very hard to put your foot down and say ‘No’. But assertiveness is important, because we all need to draw a line when we’re feeling stretched – so that we can protect our time and energy. The good news is that assertiveness is a skill that can be built with practise. When you’re feeling overwhelmed and low on energy, don’t feel obligated to say yes to additional work. Focus on how  you are feeling (“I feel stressed/burdened”) and specify the behaviour that you’re not okay with (“I feel stressed when you ask me to take on more work”). Stay firm but be gentle in letting the other person know that you’re not going to be able to do the task right now.

Remember that rest is not the same as idleness. In fact, the more you allow yourself to rest, the more productive you will be. So whether that’s taking a few days off from work or even a few minutes in the day, find what works for you and make rest time your priority.  No matter how much work you have pending, give yourself the rest that you need and deserve.


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