Rest is something that as a society we are not always very good at. We are programmed into being busy and switched on. Working from home has made this harder in some cases as the temptation (or in some instances sense of need) to keep working is constantly present. Cases of burnout when working from home and mental health issues are rising. We need to understand the importance of rest, and how to rest well.
When working from home, the idea of rest could be to simply step away from the desk. How often do you ‘relax’ in front of the TV while still scrolling on your phone or checking emails? How often do you stop for lunch while still looking at social media and replying to messages?
The problem is that we often don’t truly rest. In a world full of uncertainty and anxiety, we are often in our heads a lot and we need to rest – mentally as well as physically.
Resting is not simply sleeping. We can rest in a number of ways and acknowledge the importance of rest for our physical, mental, emotional, and social wellbeing.
The importance of rest for overall wellbeing
Think about the different ways you need rest.
You may feel physically energised but feel mentally or emotionally exhausted. Work pressures, family, and social demands can all take their toll.
If you see ‘resting’ as a way to recharge and nurture yourself, you can start to see a number of ways in which you can rest well that benefit all aspects of your wellbeing.
Perhaps you just need a break from the pressures of work, a few days without emails or the need to think about work-related tasks. If you’re part of a busy household, or have had lots of social engagements in the run up to the holidays, you may be craving ‘me time’ and need to spend a little time alone with your own thoughts, doing something just for yourself.
“The requirements for certain types of rest vary from person to person and there’s no ‘one size fits all’ prescription for rest,” says GP and founder of Wellgood Wellbeing, Zoe Watson. “Of course sleep is necessary for all of us – not just in terms of resting our bodies physically – but also to allow our brain to power down for a few hours – helping us process emotions, lay down memories, repair neuronal connections and even clear out toxins from brain cells.”
Ways to actively rest and recover
There are activities we can do that promote a better sense of wellbeing physically, mentally, emotionally, socially and spiritually. We can still be actively ‘resting’ while not sleeping or lying passively on the sofa.
Addressing your own needs is very important. Think about enjoyable activities that don’t create stress or that are overwhelming.
These may include mindfulness activities such as journalling or meditation. It might be yoga or a light physical workout that gives you a boost. It could be baking or sewing, reading, listening to music, or taking a walk in nature. All of these, while active, can promote a feeling of wellbeing and help you to feel rested.
How to benefit from wakeful resting
Wakeful resting is in essence, doing nothing. It is giving your mind a complete break while not actually sleeping.
There are a number of benefits to just resting, daydreaming, and having no cognitive demands on your brain. It has been shown to increase creativity, and helps you to fully recharge. If you suffer from mental blocks, fatigue, or brain fog, it could be a sign that you are mentally drained and need to rest.
In volume 3 of The Homeworker magazine, neurocoach, Brad Reed, explained how during wakeful resting, when we allow our mind to wander, the part of our brain known as the Default Mode Network (DMN) becomes active. This is the system involved in the sense of self, future thinking, and thinking of others.
Activating the DMN by resting after learning has also been shown to help with memory consolidation and understanding. The counterintuitive lesson is that we can be more productive by resting.
A digital detox
In today’s hyper-connected world, it can be hard to switch off and relax. Giving yourself permission to stop and unwind is really important. One of the best ways to rest in the modern world is by giving yourself a digital detox. No phones, no screens, video games, laptops, or electronic devices.
These often give us a sensory overload around the clock, constantly stimulating our brain. Overuse of technology can also negatively impact our mental health, particularly when using social media. Research from the University of Pennsylvania showed how limiting certain social apps improved mental wellbeing and decreased symptoms of depression and loneliness. The constant comparisons that social media encourages, can also have a negative affect on our happiness.
The addictive nature of technology can also impinge on our social relationships, our feelings of connectedness, and our sense of a healthy work-life balance. By spending time without tech and digital distractions, we allow ourselves to connect with friends and family on a deeper level, strengthen bonds, and have quality time together.
This improves our social, emotional, and mental wellbeing, showing the importance of rest and disconnection from the digital world.
Use the holiday period as an opportunity to switch off and make time to look after yourself.