The Importance of Taking a True Day of Rest

We are currently on fall break at my university. As students were taking midterm exams and getting ready for break, I heard a lot of statements like, "I'm going to get a TON of work done over break," or "I can look up jobs during fall break, when I have more free time." While it is great to set goals and things we want to do during break, sometimes it is a little much.

We often overestimate what we can accomplish in a short amount of time.

When we have a whole day in front of us, with no classes or appointments or other commitments, it can seem like we should just "go, go, go" and get everything done. But productivity does not come that easily, especially after pushing ourselves really hard for awhile. My students that say, "I'll be able to do that once break gets here," forget the keyword in the sentence. Break. Breaks shouldn't be the time to push even harder.

Breaks should be used as opportunities to rest and rejuvenate.

Whether it is a week-long break, a holiday weekend, or just a Saturday afternoon you reserve for yourself, taking a break is just as important as the time you schedule to get things done. It seems counterintuitive, but taking a day of rest can actually better prepare you for the days where you need to work hard. You'll have more energy and motivation after a rest day.

Use these strategies to create rest periods and days.

Have you been convinced that rest is important yet? Sometimes it is tricky to actually create a rest day or period of time. I like to use these strategies:

  • Block off a chunk of time in your calendar. Aim for an entire day, but do what you can. Do not let anyone else schedule that time with you. Make up another 'commitment' to tell people if they are going to scoff at the idea of a rest day. But reserve the time and keep it firm. That will make it more likely you will stick to it.
  • Schedule rest time after a really stressful day or time. There's a reason why our fall break at school is right after midterms. Do you have a big presentation at work that you need to schedule a rest day after? Or know you'll need to catch up on rest after traveling for a weekend? I try to build these days in around stressful times, to help balance out my weeks.
  • Think about what will make your scheduled time truly restful. If laying on the couch all day has absolutely no appeal to you and sounds more stressful than actually doing something...well - that's not a rest day for you. Maybe your rest involves watching a relaxing television show, eating some of your favorite foods, or spending time resting outside. Figure out what rest actually looks like for you so you have something to look forward to on rest days.
  • Unplug. Actually unplug. I know, I know. It seems obvious. But we so rarely do it. Do not let emails or text messages or random Snapchats get into your rest time. Let it go. It will still be waiting for you when you return. 
  • After a rest time period or day, reflect on why it was successful. Did you get caught up on sleep? Did you feel like you could actually relax? What was it that made the time restful? Save this information for yourself so you know how to make the next rest day even better. 

Another reason to take a rest day is to avoid guilt.

After fall break, I'll start to hear the usual statements from students. "I just didn't get everything done that I wanted to over break." "I ended up just sleeping the entire time instead of getting anything done." "I had big plans, but they all disappeared once I went home."

Yep, it's understandable. When we put too much on our plate and then don't get it done, we feel a cycle of guilt and regret. And no one needs to come back from a break feeling that way. Instead, know that you are intentionally and purposefully taking a break. When I come back from break, I plan to say, "I'm really glad I took the time to rest." We'll need it for the months ahead.

So what's your favorite way to rest and relax?

Tell me below in the comments! I would love to hear your favorite strategies.