The Importance of Rest: Practical Tips to Slow Down

Christoffer Kaltenbrunner
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With ever-growing demands from our society to always be on the go, resting is easily forgotten.

Recent technology has made it possible to work from anywhere, anytime. We are exposed to more information than ever in history, and yet we have the same brains as the people living during the Stone Age. Our brains are not wired for constant information flow. We have to rest sometimes, or our bodies will stop working.

Why Rest and Recovery is Important

A recent paper published in the European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology investigates what impact rest has on job engagement.4

The findings are interesting…

The study found two things. First, that a good night’s sleep increases job engagement, and second, that taking breaks in the morning had no effect on job engagement, whereas, taking breaks in the afternoon had a positive effect on job engagement. The authors also note that it’s best to take a break both in the morning and the afternoon. However, taking a break doesn’t compensate for short or lousy sleep.

In a society where we get pushed to do more, sleep can easily get compromised, resulting in less engagement at work. We can’t compensate for a bad night’s sleep by taking more breaks during the day.

On the other hand, if we get good sleep, taking breaks during the workday can make us even more engaged at work. When we feel involved, it gets more fun to work, and we face challenges with a positive attitude.

10 Tips to Slow Down and Get More Rest

The first step towards more rest is to prioritize it. Here are my best tips to slow down.

  1. Give yourself permission to rest. You don’t have to do something every single hour you’re awake. Give yourself permission to do nothing. Don’t forget to take care of yourself.

  2. Make time for rest in your schedule. If you often find yourself not having time for rest, try to schedule your resting periods. That way, you know how much time you can spend on other activities. Make sure you don’t work at your resting periods, though.

  3. Learn to say no. Make a list of your essentials and say no to everything else. If you find it hard to say no, remember that saying no to something means saying yes to something else. For example, I’ve said no to work that doesn’t align with my priorities and thus said yes to spending time with family and friends instead.

  4. Get better sleep. Sleep is the most important factor for recovery. We have to sleep. Otherwise, we become completely dysfunctional. Make sure you get enough quality sleep – don’t compromise on this point. If you find it hard to fall asleep, try some meditation exercises to calm your mind down before bedtime.

  5. Read a book. A study at the University of Sussex found that reading can reduce stress levels by up to 68 percent.1 Find a book you’ll enjoy reading, something that doesn’t make you think of work. Let yourself get lost in the story.

  6. Practice meditation and mindfulness. There’s no secret practicing mindfulness and meditation reduces stress. Begin with five to ten minutes of meditation practice every day and increase the time after a few weeks. You can also do some yoga practice.

  7. Take breaks. Preferably one in the morning and one in the afternoon, according to the study cited above. If you can only take one break, take it in the afternoon.

  8. Go for a walk. Spending time outdoors, and particularly in green spaces, reduces the experience of stress.2 Additionally, a study by researchers at Stanford University found that walking increases creative thoughts.3 “Walking opens up the free flow of ideas,” they write. The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche stated that “[a]ll truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.” Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, used to have walking meetings whenever he wanted to talk about something important. Additionally, if you combine walking and mindfulness into walking meditation, you get many more health benefits compared to traditional walking.

  9. Don’t work when you’re home. Only a few generations ago, people didn’t have the same ability to bring their jobs to home. There were no emails or distracting phones. When people got home from work, they could relax. Nowadays, we can answer job emails the first thing we do in the morning and the last thing we do before we fall asleep, if we’re not careful. I suggest that you leave your work at work. When you’re home, give yourself well deserved rest after a hard day’s work.

  10. Listen to your body. If you feel like you need a day off, listen to your body.

  1. Lewis, D. (2009), Galaxy Stress Research. Mindlab International, Sussex University, UK. 

  2. Kondo, M., Jacoby, S., South, E. (2018). Does spending time outdoors reduce stress? A review of real-time stress response to outdoor environments. Health & Place, 51, 136-150. doi:10.1016/j.healthplace.2018.03.001 

  3. Oppezzo, M., & Schwartz, D. L. (2014). Give your ideas some legs: The positive effect of walking on creative thinking. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 40:4, 1142–1152. doi:10.1037/a0036577 

  4. Kühnel, J., Zacher, H., de Bloom, J., Bledow, R. (2017). Take a break! Benefits of sleep and short breaks for daily work engagement. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 26:4, 481-491. doi:10.1080/1359432X.2016.1269750 

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