The Importance of Rest

Rest is often undervalued and under-prioritised. In this busy world it’s often hard to obtain. But if we don’t prioritise rest then the consequences can be huge. We might be aware of the consequences sometimes but many of them go under our radar, silently but consistently sabotaging our performance and our wellbeing while we labour on in a delusion of happy, or even not so happy, busy-ness. By the end of this video you will realise the important role rest plays in our recovery and our attainment of peak performance in life and work. You will feel more able to prioritise rest in your life and you’ll be able to schedule rest without feeling guilty.

The Importance of Rest

In this video we’re going to talk about the importance of rest. Rest is often undervalued and under-prioritised. In this busy world it’s often hard to obtain. But if we don’t prioritise rest then the consequences can be huge. We might be aware of the consequences sometimes but many of them go under our radar, silently but consistently sabotaging our performance and our wellbeing while we labour on in a delusion of happy, or even not so happy, busy-ness.

By the end of this video you will realise the important role rest plays in our recovery and our attainment of peak performance in life and work. You will feel more able to prioritise rest in your life and you’ll be able to schedule rest without feeling guilty.

For decades, research has documented the impact of lack of quality rest for people of all ages across all socio-economic spectrums. And it’s a general consensus that rest is incredibly important to maximise our potential.

Here are some scientific reasons a regular rest time every week, whenever you choose to make it happen, really works:

So lets look at the Physical side of things:

Firstly, time out reduces stress. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reports that stress levels at work at higher than ever and that health care costs are nearly 50% greater for workers who report high levels of stress. Stress creates havoc with our physical and emotional health. A growing body of evidence shows that skipping breaks can lead to stress and exhaustion.

The way to deal with this is simple. Take regular breaks from your computer workstation. Look out the window, get some fresh air, chat to a colleague, hang the washing up, just get away from your desk. Set a pomodoro timer, which times 45 minute and 15 minute intervals. You work for 45 minutes, then take a break doing something else for 15. Even if you only do this for a couple of hours a day it’s better than nothing.

Secondly, time out gives you a chance to move. I’m sure we've all seen the studies on the impact of a lot of sitting time on many aspects of health: "Research has linked sitting for long periods of time with a number of health concerns, including obesity and metabolic syndrome -- a cluster of conditions that includes increased blood pressure, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels. Too much sitting also seems to increase the risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer." Sitting extends beyond TV time to include all time at a screen, time at work, in the car, visiting with friends...in short, the kinds of things that fill the day for most of us. Studies show that time sitting, as most of us do at work and in lots of our non-work time, influences inflammatory markers and our risk of having higher blood glucose, obesity or heart disease. Each one hour increase in sitting time associates with an 18% increased cardiovascular disease mortality risk.

The above strategy of taking regular breaks works for this obviously. If, when we take a break, we just sit and look out the window, it does have a restorative effect, but if when we take a break we get up and go outside and walk for 10-15 minutes, or do some star jumps or press ups or the like, then that benefits our physical health. Why not try and see if you can schedule some walking meetings every day rather than having everything at a desk. Just keep ‘movement’ on your radar more consciously and you will find ways of incorporating more into your life.

Next, getting away from work boosts your immune system.

Chronic stress depresses your immune system. Conversely adequate sleep and exercise are two of four essentials of boosting your immune system. Take advantage of your weekends for extended R&R. And, when you are ‘away from work’ be ‘away from work’. You’re not resting fully if you’re checking your emails throughout the day, or even just once on the morning. You’re not resting fully if people are calling you just to check this and that. If you’re on A/L leave your phone in a drawer. If you are working on a big deal or have some high priority clients and you can’t rest unless you know they can get hold of you, which we appreciate is the case for some of you, then tell your client before you go on holiday and give them a colleague to contact. This colleague should be able to deal with some issues but have your personal phone number just in case you really need to jump in and deal with something.

If you really feel that you can’t be without your work phone then at least have periods when you turn it off completely, or leave it behind in your accommodation while you go out. You’ll be amazed at how freeing it is for your mind when you don’t have it on your person.

Generally, we attribute things like our attitude, our drive, health, and even success to personal and personality traits; we simply are a certain way thanks to our environment, the choices we’ve made, and our innate ways of being. However, that’s not always true. A lack of sleep and rest can not only dull some of our more positive traits and tendencies, but handicap them entirely.  We’re still the same person with that personality but now we’re a bit grumpier, a bit lacking in our usual positivity and on top of that we’re getting a few colds.

For those of you who aren’t great sleepers, or get less than you need, consider giving yourself the gift of a week where you prioritise good, solid rest. This means going to bed early instead of watching tv to relax, staying in instead of going out, a few good lie ins, if you can manage it, You might need to get your partner on board, of course, or tell friends who you normally meet up with that you’re doing this. But think of it as an experiment, a project just to see how you feel.

You might be surprised how getting more sleep can resolve issues that, through foggy judgment, you have perhaps been incorrectly blaming on other people, circumstances, or situations in your life. This includes illnesses, stress, and related health issues that we tend to medicate before attempting to heal or at the least minimise with a great sleep regime.

One of our clients had a typical sleep pattern of bed around midnight/1am after getting everything ready for everyone for the next day. She then slept fitfully, thinking of everything she had on at work the next day. She got up most days about 6am and was always shattered, grumpy, emotional. When we adjusted her sleep pattern, prioritising sleep over faffing and looking after everyone else, she remarked how easy life was. Life is a whole lot easier when you have a regular and plentiful sleep pattern.

Finally in terms of the physical side of things, it’s important to recognise that our active time off adds years to our lifespan. Results of studies suggest that a higher amount of daily total sitting time is associated with all-cause mortality, particularly among inactive adults. So get out there and get some exercise done, whether it’s gardening, running, walking, yoga or weightlifting. Get active.

Obvious and of-repeated ways to get more active are:

One great tip is that if we visualise what we’re doing as our daily activity as exercise it actually increases our metabolism and calorie burn. So whatever you’re doing, in terms of movement, think of it as exercise.

Okay so now we’re going to look at how rest affects our Mental and Emotional self: It might seem obvious but taking regular time away from work restores mental energy. You probably know that just from your own experience but science supports your intuition too. Studies show "that people who do not know how to detach from work during their off time experience increased exhaustion over the course of one year and are less resilient in the face of stressful work conditions.” Resilience has become an enormous factor in our increasingly busy and stressed world so it’s really important we recognise what lowers our resilience and take steps to counter that. So, if you know that having back to back meetings for a day makes you feel exhausted or stressed then make sure the people who have access to your diary know to leave a 15 minute gap between meetings where you can recharge and do what you need to do. We are much more in control than we think, we often just let life happen to us when we could actively control a great proportion of it.

The next benefit of rest is that when you take out time for yourself, you're more creative.

Thinking is one of the crucial benefits of stepping back. Just as quality time off fuels energetic resources on the job, reflective time is critical to producing solutions and creative breakthroughs.

When you’re completely task focused your brain can’t make the leaps it needs to sometimes in order to reach creative solutions. If you’re really struggling with a problem, sometime the best way to deal with it is to lie back on the sofa, or go for a walk and just let your mind drift. There’s a reason ‘sleep on it’ is a saying. It really works! Letting your mind relieve itself from all the day to day task activities lets it roam more freely so those neurons can get firing.

Believe it or not you're also more productive when you take time out from work. Data from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development shows that working more hours means less productivity. The most productive countries are Germany and France - each mandating more than 30 days of vacation. This is because of several factors, the first being that you'll focus better at work if you take your weekly time off.

A 2008 University of Illinois study shows that all work and no play dramatically reduces focus as well as productivity. Conversely, regular time off work improves it. So make sure you take those "restorative" breaks just as seriously as you take turning up at work and getting the job done.

Time off also improves your short-term memory. Studies show that forgetfulness and confusion are not just signs of ageing, they’re signs that we’re overworked, exhausted, in need of a restorative solution rather than having anything wrong with us. When you fail to rest you’re literally just overworking your mind and body. Give them a break and you’ll see the benefits.

The final factor to do with increased productivity from rest is that regular time away from work might even allow you to love your job again. Just as time away from a loved one can make us remember how much we love them, time away from work can let you forget the petty struggles of your day job and see the bigger picture. Also, with proper rest you are recharged and have the energy to bring your best self to work.

Consultants all tell us that "Finding time to chill and unwind will help you enjoy both work and play more." In a recent Harvard Business Review article, the first recommendation for restoring passion about work is to "call a time-out." It works, according to many testimonies.

If you imagine an athlete, you’d think they were crazy if all they did was train, never having a full day off or getting proper sleep. If a top athlete attempted to function at their best while regularly getting only 5 hours sleep a night we’d think they were bonkers. Yet this is what we keep on doing week after week after week. We totally acknowledge the importance of rest in this capacity but then we let ourselves carry on with habits of overworking that produce less than optimal results. Somehow we think we know better than all the studies that show otherwise. All we ask is that you try it for a week and see what the effects are. Or that you tweak certain aspects of your day or week to incorporate more resting activities.

Give it a go. Swap two meetings next week to walking meetings.

Set a pomodoro timer for 2 hours every day and make sure you get up and do something active in the breaks.

Go to bed early, prioritising sleep over almost everything for a week and see how it improves your mood, your attitude and consequently your productivity.

Rest is not a waste of time, or a low priority, it’s incredibly important for you to be able to be at your best, at home and at work, plus it makes you live a longer, healthier life.

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