Rest is a right, not a reward
I’ve been thinking a lot about rest lately. Having Covid will do that to you, I suppose. It’s stuck on my mind because after forcing myself to switch off for a few days I realised I don’t take enough rest because it makes me feel guilty. And that’s the problem.
Rest has been the biggest underlying topic of conversation in lieu of Covid and the way it unearthed our unsustainable way of working. It’s especially genuine in American work culture, where high-profile tech companies (Twitter, Google, Facebook) began announcing their embracement of permanent work-from-home fixtures, people reveled laid-back home environments and three day weekends started to bubble to the surface. We finally started waking up to the stigma of “hustle culture” as more the enemy of my enemy is not my friend.
We often talk about “deserving a rest”, but rest isn’t something we earn. Rest is a right, not a reward. It’s essential for simple and sustainable living. Jackie Homan beautifully pointed out that, with the advent of the disruption and adjustment to our work and life balance, rest is productive, and “the cultural zeitgeist, at least online, indicates that rest is here to stay.”
Homan goes on to say that “prioritising rest is certainly better than not prioritising rest”, not because it makes us more productive—it’s not all about productivity—but because it makes us happier, healthier, and live more sustainably. That said, it’s not wrong to believe that rest is productive. It’s important to feel like resting from time to time is important and allowed. But rest is a natural state of being, “a state we fall back to when we remove all the external forces from life”, Homan says. “If left alone to be still, we’ll find ourselves deeper in rest, perhaps even falling asleep—rarely do we find ourselves naturally revving up to a state of work unless there’s something external pulling us in that direction.” It’s supported by popular laws, such as the second law of thermodynamics, or similarly, Newton’s first law of motion.
Rest is the necessary reaction to its counterpart: daily activity and sleep, exercise and recovery and planning. work has been forced to hold more weight, but you don’t grow when you work. You grow during rest.
I grew up being made to believe resting was for the lazy and useless, that if I had enough time to rest (and I mean lying in bed, trying to switch off by reading or listening to music), I also should have had enough time to help out around the house doing something non-urgent or studying even more. It ignores the point, but that came a lot from parents, older peers I spoke to, or the opinions of my elder generations.
Taking time off fills us up with a little too much guilt. For instance, at school, whenever I finished an exam early I used to pretend I was still thinking or working because what would people say if I handed my work with 40 minutes to go? Have I missed something entirely? We can think we only deserve rest when we no longer have the energy for anything else. Even then, most people’s idea of “enough” isn’t enough.
Again, never take advice from people who don’t realise their lack of rest is attributing to their tired qualities. These people have no agency. They don’t exercise their will to slow down and take their time back. Rest is not a sin. It’s a incentivising notion to say you should be happy to put rest first, to internalise and value it unconditionally.
Having spare time used to stress me out, even at work—despite studies showing that many people are far less productive in the office than it looks.
But on a personal level, rest improves our mood, it gives us time to reflect and settle our thoughts, to focus on what makes us happy and diminish those things that don’t. Just like we need food, water, and connection, we also need rest. It’s not a hobby or a trait, it’s a biological need. When we embrace that idea, it can help us release the guilt or shame we feel whenever we engage with it.
How can you adopt this mentality, put some distance between rest and productivity and prioritise it more? One of the best things we can do is identify what we already believe about rest and then try to answer these two questions from Naiylah Warren:
“What was I taught about leisure and rest?”
“What am I being taught about it now?”
The next step is to pay attention to how being engaged in rest allows you to show up in your life with more presence. Once we feel the benefits of rest, it’ll create more evidence for us to embrace it as a right.
What I’ve Learned
Pride is problematic
Pride kicks in at different times for everyone, but its problem ends up being the same. Pride leads to frustration and angst which encourages wasted time. We are the only creatures who judge ourselves but have a deep appreciation for things outside ourselves. With that, it’s important to remember that applying more love and adoration to what you do will help you enjoy more of every minute of the journey you’re on.
Good advice at the wrong time is bad advice
Life is full of seasons, and different moments have different requirements. The important thing is to know what season you are in to better identify which ideas you should use at the right time. This can be applied particularly in conversation with a close friend or loved one.
Conserve your energy
James Clear says, “when rain falls, it flows downhill”, and it applies to a recursive theme in life where most situations have a tendency, a direction in which things want to flow. You can go with the flow or against it, but your results tend to be better when you find a way to work with the gradient of a situation. That way, energy is conserved, and your results can be multiplied.
What’s on My Mind
My 20 rules of simple living:
A quote to Think About
A Question for You
What is your most enjoyable activity outside of work at the moment? And how could you make more time for it?
Until next time,