Health & Well-being
Rest and Recovery – The Secret to Improved Well-being
November 8, 2022
Time off. We all find ourselves longing for it at one point or another, and yet it can seem elusive. We have our ever-growing to-do lists; that big project that’s due yesterday, the bake sale at our kids’ school, that work event next week, and all the things in between. We live and work in a society that wears busyness as a badge of honor, that prioritizes work instead of rest. We often feel guilty for even thinking about taking time off, let alone when we actually take it. But the truth is there is so much value in time off. Unfortunately, we often don’t recognize the value of rest and time off until we reach our breaking point.
In a study from the American Institute of Stress, 40% of workers reported that their job was very or extremely stressful, with 25% reporting that they view their jobs as the number one stressor in their lives. More concerning, 30% of full-time employees report working on weekends and holidays, meaning they aren’t fully engrossing themselves in their time off. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), annual global productivity losses of $1 trillion U.S. are attributed to the increased prevalence of negative mental health outcomes and their coexistence with negative physical health outcomes. So while it may seem like we can’t afford to take time off, can we really afford not to?
In a study from the National Institute of Health, researchers discovered that our brains may replay compressed memories of learning new skills when we rest, increasing memory of that skill. Time off for rest and recovery is an investment in your productivity. It’s not just about taking time off, it’s about being intentional with how you rest and recover.
The simple definition of rest is “to cease from action or motion.” Often when we think of rest, we may think of lying still for a period of time or even sleeping. But rest can be so much more. There is also the concept of “micro-rest,” or what is also known as a micro-break, lasting anywhere from 30 seconds to five minutes. Examples include standing up and stretching, taking a brief walk around the office, chatting with a coworker, or even going to grab a coffee. These small moments of rest can make a huge difference.
We focus on and praise work ethic, but what about rest ethic? Rest ethic centers around being comfortable with yourself when you’re not being productive, it means shifting your thinking around how you work and how you live. We can think of it just like breathing: the inhale is our work ethic and the exhale is our rest ethic. Both are equally important to our well-being and help us gain perspective. We should schedule our rest just like we schedule our work. Be intentional about rest, good rest is about being conscious of how you spend your time. Fill time off with meaningful activities that energize you and help you truly disconnect from work.
When we are ready we can even take it a step further. There is more than just working or resting. We can also be intentional about letting things “incubate”, think taking a break from work to let ideas marinate, and digesting our thoughts to come back with a new perspective. Allowing ourselves the space to really evaluate the current moment and cultivate our next steps can give us a fresh perspective we may not have had if we had been hurrying on to the next thing.
Start by giving yourself permission to begin! You can learn more about rest and recovery by checking out this podcast, “How to Rest as Hard as You Work,” or the book “Time Off: A Practical Guide to Building Your Rest Ethic and Finding Success Without the Stress” by John Fitch and Max Frenzel.
Emily Kral Senior Health Strategist
Emily is a Senior Health Strategist on the Toledo Employee Benefits team at Hylant.
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