Today, I’m going to take a look at rest. Why we need it, what it looks like to go without it and what real rest looks like.
First, why do we need rest? This goes back to creation. God created six days and rested on the seventh (Gen. 2:2) — not because He needed to, but because He wanted to set an example for us. I’m told that the Hebrew word for “rest”, shabat means to cease from doing or creating. We were created to rest. This is something I have struggled with. Even on my “breaks”, I still want to be doing something. To cease from doing or to do some restful didn’t sound appealing to me until recently. I took on more than I could just “power through” in one burst of effort without breaks. Over the past few days, I’ve started to incorporate more restful activities and have been getting more done as a result.
When we don’t take breaks from our work, it is harder for us to do our work and we are more likely to feel overwhelmed. Research has been done on how we learn that shows we need to actively engage with what we’re learning and also need to disengage and let our subconscious sort through what we have been learning. We need some time where our brains are quite literally doing nothing. Closing your eyes to rest or pray, going for a walk, getting out in nature, there are any number of things we can do to let our brain rest and sort through problems. The key is to avoid activities like videos games, social media, TV or anything else where our brains are actively engaged when we are resting. This will also give you eyes a well needed break.
University of Illinois psychology professor Alejandro Lleras explains:
“…Deactivating and reactivating your goals allows you to stay focused,” he said. “From a practical standpoint, our research suggests that, when faced with long tasks (such as studying before a final exam or doing your taxes), it is best to impose brief breaks on yourself. Brief mental breaks will actually help you stay focused on your task!”
When should I take a break, and what is a good break?
Research seems to point to the fact that we have higher alertness in 90 minute blocks. One researcher recommended 90 minutes of engaged work and 20 minutes of time where our brain is disengaged. Examples of a good break could be to take a walk, get out in nature, grab a snack, daydream, stretch, read, listen to music or talk to people. Getting in motion is good for focus, especially if you are tired. According to my physical therapist, we should get out of chairs and move around every 60 minutes. I’m assuming 90 minutes isn’t too bad, but we should move when we break from work.
Go forth and take good breaks. Manage your energy well and change the world!