Catholic Husband

Love, Lead, Serve

The Necessity of Rest (and Why You Need More of It)

Relaxing in a hammock by a clear lake

I spent four years in the workforce after college. The environment was challenging, but it was a nonprofit, so people were kind about it. There was a constant tension over work hours. The more experienced employees came up through the company at a time where results came at any cost. My peers and I were more interested in having a work/life balance. This difference of opinion centered on one critical element: the role of rest. To them, we were lazy. To us, they were unreasonable.

These last few months have been challenging for me. Alison’s schedule demands have increased, as have the demands on my time. Caring for the kids now takes up the majority of my day leaving me just three hours for my mountain of work. All last month, I struggled to get back on “schedule,” never quite finding success. It wasn’t until I realized that I had forgotten to rest that I understood why. My brain can handle lots of work, but it also needs time to recharge. By always working, I neglected to give myself the rest that I needed. I called a truce and took October off. It was rejuvenating.

Rest is something that I’ve written about many times. I’ve shared my views on the differences between rest and idleness. I shared my belief that discipline can help you maintain your schedule. I've even shared how I made a practice of not working on Sundays. For all this advice to be helpful, have to be diligent about maintaining these habits.

I know the temptation is there to slack off, it’s one that I grapple with almost daily. I have a little pity party and then waste away two solid hours that I could’ve utilized much better. I discovered that there’s a real difference between spontaneous breaks and rest. Spontaneous breaks are those mornings when you have a rough start, so you do nothing all day. The problem with this type of unscheduled pass is that there was no planning. You made no provisions for the work that was due, so it piles up.

Rest, real rest, is both planned for and takes place over several days. When you plan your vacations, you can ensure that there’s nothing outstanding. You can check out and not worry about the work piling up while you recharge your batteries. I think that one day a week is enough to propel you through the next week.

Besides scheduled rest, there are periods of rest that happen during your day. To you and me, they might look like the hour(s?) we spend on the couch, but there are better ways to plan those “off-times.” Shawn Blanc shares how he plans out his work focus and rest focus each morning so that he knows what to do in the downtime to continue making forward progress.

It may not surprise you that the United States is the most depressed country in the world. This epidemic is affecting almost 10% of all Americans. According to Dr. Matthew Sleeth, the problem is that we’re not finding time to rest. Dr. Sleeth is a former emergency room physician who did extensive research on the connection between rest and the adverse effects it has on our health. His research is disconcerting, to say the least.

There's good news here. You have the ability to take back control of your schedule. Put your to-do list into a trusted system (I use the Things app and plan your days so that you have one day off each week. Plan your vacations in advance and turn off your work while you’re out of the office. Exercise a bit more, eat a little healthier, and watch your outlook improve.
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