Rest is for the weak, right? It doesn't fit into today’s society very well. Slowing down, kicking back, and being still seems counterproductive. I know I've often felt that way. It is hard to unwind. When I take the time to rest, it’s as if I am still on the merry-go-round, spinning. What am I forgetting that needs to be done? My brain begins to check my to-do list.
Does this sound like you as well? When did we become human doings instead of human beings? Is it because our technology has made us too available? Perhaps we are truly the microwave society that wants instant results in everything, not just our meals.
The Toll of Busyness
A friend of mine told me she often needs at least three days to unwind before she can begin to enjoy her vacation. It is hard to slough off the finger snapping sensation of “do it now.” However, some people never enjoy their vacation time.
American workers are allowed an average of 10 days per year for vacation and five for holidays, compared to the average of 35 days alloted in other countries. Many employees opt not to take any of those 15 days! In fact, elsewhere in the world the US is known as the “no vacation nation.” 75% of American people polled said they don't take off for vacations. If their bosses allow it, they’d prefer to take the money instead and keep working. Why? They are afraid to lose the momentum. They worry the whole time they are away whether someone is trying to steal their jobs or envision six-foot high mounds of paperwork teetering on their desk when they return. They work extra hours to get caught up and feel tired again. Why bother?
Obesity, high blood pressure, sleep disorders, and anxiety is on the rise. Is there a correlation? Could the fact we hardly have time to rest, and may even boast about how busy we are, have a bearing on our physical, emotional, and spiritual states? Many scientists, doctors, and psychologists believe so. Our high tech, fast-paced lifestyles are slowly killing us. Article after article in medical journals and on clinical websites spout the correlation between good health and regular, restful sleep. Even our kids are pushed to the limits with before school, after school, and weekend extra-curricular activities. When do they have time to play, rest, or just lie in the yard and watch clouds turn into animal shapes?
Technical gurus, like my son, tell me once a week I should shut down my computer, let it rest, and then boot it up again in a few hours. They also suggest putting it in sleep mode when not in use. Our bodies and our minds were designed to rest just like our computers. We all need to go into sleep mode each day and occasionally just shut down our brains and relax.
The military even allows soldiers to take R&R — rest and relaxation. The commanders understand how stressful war can be and how quickly battle fatigue can set in. A tired soldier is a danger to himself and his fellow troop members. In intense manhunts, disaster relief, or hostage situations that can last for hours if not days, police forces often switch out patrols to allow their officers a bit of downtime in order to keep them focused and sharp-witted.
Many cultures have rest time built into their lifestyles. Mandatory siesta, when the sun is at its highest, is a way of life in Mexico, Portugal, Spain and parts of Italy. In the Philippines, it is a common practice to power down for a half hour each day. It used to be common in kindergartens throughout Germany and other western countries for children to have rest time after lunch as part of their school curriculum. A few innovative corporations have experimented with allowing a 20 minute nap time for their employees and report less sick days and higher productivity.
Most religions value a time of quiet to meditate, reflect, and detox. In the Bible it says even God rested after he created the universe. If the claim is true that we are made in God's image, it would make sense to assume we are designed for rest as well. In fact, one of the Ten Commandments is to remember the Sabbath day (the seventh day in Genesis) and observe it as a day of rest. It is right up there with don’t murder or steal. Sounds pretty important in the Judeo-Christian worldview.
If you feel frazzled, you are not sleeping well, your heartburn is worse, and your stress levels are climbing, perhaps your body, mind, and soul are letting you know you need a Sabbath day. I like to call them pajama days — days when I don’t get dressed or leave the house. I ignore the cobwebs and dust, the plies of laundry, and the ever-growing to-do list. I shut out the nagging sensation that I am not being productive. After a while, the tension in my shoulders eases and the muscles in my lower back begin to unravel.
Try it for a few hours at first. I know. This won’t be easy. Mark a scheduled downtime on your calendar and put a reminder in your phone. Put a fence around it as an important appointment with yourself and firmly say “no” when events emerge to snatch it away. Wake up with the day, not the alarm. Actually turn off the cell phone. Back away from the computer and hide the TV remote. Take a time out to nap, read, meditate, or enjoy a leisurely nature walk. "Work" up to truly resting a half day each week and encourage your family members to do the same.
Go ahead. Be a maverick. Rest! Your body, mind, and spirit will thank you.
This article was written by: Julie CosgrovePhoto Credit: Martina Misar-Tummeltshammer