When was the last time you took a rest day? It's easy to lose track during the hustle of everyday life, and if you've lost track, it's a signal you need one. Physically, you should have a full rest day about every week to ten days, but mentally you need more frequent breaks to maintain focus and clarity. It's a lost practice in the current era, but it's set for a comeback out of wisdom and necessity.
In addition to rest days, the notion of self-care has taken center stage as a vital component in being a contributing member of our communities, overall health, and general wellness for individuals. Thank goodness self-care is trending, but it's still a challenge for many.
Why You Need a Rest Day (Or, at Least, a Break)
Our culture and society have often followed a work harder-better-faster mentality to the point of diminishing returns. From a physical standpoint, especially for those who enjoy intense workouts, bodies need time to repair muscle tissue. Without that time, you deplete glycogen (energy) storage in the body, forcing you to tap into protein for energy instead. Unfortunately, there isn't enough protein leftover to repair your muscles when this happens, leaving you tired and more prone to injury.
In addition to days off from exercise, it's just as important to take mental breaks, yet so many people tend to forge ahead and push through their ever-growing task list. If you haven't done this yourself, you've undoubtedly seen it––the person eating lunch at their desk, skipping lunch altogether, working when they (you!) should be sleeping. And all in the name of getting things done. Perhaps thinking, "if I can just get these things checked off my list, I'll have earned a break."
Great news, you don't need to earn your rest through overworking and overexerting yourself. In fact, according to the American Psychological Association, "...powering through without a pause can do more harm than good." It appears evident in the scenario of a surgeon or pilot how dangerous it could be to push through without enough sleep, for example. Still, it's just as harmful to anyone else from a relative perspective regarding concentration, productivity, decision-making, and stress levels––all of which take a hit if you push too hard.
The Time Factor
In a perfect world, everyone would have the luxury of declaring a full day of rest when they need it, but "luxury" can seem all too accurate a way to describe a day off in the age of always being on and connected. But, before you say you don't have time, consider this: Nielsen reports suggest that in 2020, media consumption increased by 60%, resulting in a whopping 13+ hours per day of screen time for persons 18 and older.
Sure, 2020 was exceptional in many ways, including the shift to being homebound for many months, but those numbers are undeniably jolting. Even if you spend eight of those hours dedicated to working online, that leaves an average of five hours on the table. There's no shame in the game here; everyone has done their best, but screen time transparency has always delivered reality checks. Our digital devices are sneaky time bandits.
Most people don't realize how much time they spend in front of a screen because their behavior disguises it. It's a few minutes at a time, checking email, scrolling new posts on social, watching the hilarious dog video that your friend sent, an episode of your favorite show. All of these seem innocuous until you add them up, and ironically, many people do these things when they're taking a break. But, unfortunately, it’s what happens when we’re not mindful and intentional with our time and attention.
Screen time alone is not to blame for lost time. Other ways time seems to disappear are:
- Meetings (especially those that don't end in bringing value or action)
- Non-essential errands
- Inefficient planning
- Household tasks
- Distractions outside your control
- Commute time
At the root, "I don't have time" is often a limiting belief, and it takes some investigation to track where it's all going. Of course, it's true that careers, families, maintaining relationships, daily chores, and so on takes time and attention, although it's all commonly lumped into being "busy." Maybe you're in the camp of those who don't spend much time in front of a screen, but if you still feel tight on time–where is it going, and how could you use it another way?
A great way to evaluate this for yourself is to track your time for a few days. Aim for at least three days, preferably a week, if you can do it. You can start by turning on your screen time tracking in the preferences of your smartphone or using an app to see how much time is adding up from texts with friends, social media, news, and any other internet rabbit holes.
Your tracking can be as simple as keeping a notepad pad with you and jotting down everything you do and how long it takes. For this to be helpful, you have to be honest. If you wake up and get on your phone, don't skip that because you have to write it down this time. This tracking is for you, and you don't have to show anyone.
Remember, this is not just about screen time but getting a clearer view of where your time goes, and you only need to do this for a few days to start seeing areas where you're doing things habitually. For example, you might check your email or phone to the tune of ten minutes at a time, six times a day. That's an hour a day without doing much of anything. If you discover anything like this, don't feel bad; you're not alone! The whole point is to start seeing what's in the blind spots. It's the first step to finding more time.
The Cost of Wearing a Busy Badge
Many have grown accustomed to wearing a busy badge because somewhere along the way, the line between busy and productive became a blur. Busy is often a catch-all or default for the state of life, and the reason we give for why we haven't been able to start that exercise plan, finish that book, return that phone call, or find some time for self-care. The associated cost with being busy is opportunity cost or missing out on a potential gain when an alternative is chosen.
Once you track your time, even for a few days, you'll likely discover that you're spending more time than you thought on something that doesn't seem worth the time. For example, let's say you're spending thirty minutes a day scrolling on social media and reading articles that cross your feed. While it's perfectly okay to participate in social media and to read articles of interest, it's common to do so unconsciously or mindlessly. Meaning, you may not realize how much time you're spending on things that aren't remarkably purposeful or beneficial to your life.
Considering what we know about screen time and adding in the other time-vanishing activities above, thirty minutes of squandered time each day is conservative. Once you've tracked your time for three or more days, review your list and ask yourself how important each of those things are, if it's a benefit, if it serves your values, or if you could skip it entirely. In some cases, you'll find that your time spent is in alignment with your goals, but you'll also find things that you don't need to do or at least not as often.
Creating new habits takes effort, but suppose you free up an hour a day. That could be life-changing! An hour each day for a break or self-care of your choosing. What if, instead of pouring your morning coffee and picking up your phone, you took that coffee to your comfiest chair with the book you've wanted to dig into? Or what if instead of having lunch al desko you ate lunch al fresco with a friend? What would it feel like to have an hour of sanctuary in your day?
Make the Most of Rest Days and Breaks
When it comes to exercise, it's a little easier to schedule a rest day and take breaks. You can either skip working out altogether or have an active rest day where you still move your body less strenuously by taking a walk or doing some gentle yoga. We're realists here, and we know that the more significant challenge comes with the mental breaks and the difficulty of disconnecting.
There's an adage that says, "If it isn't scheduled, it isn't real," or, "If it isn't scheduled, it won't happen." Unfortunately, there's a lot of truth to that, especially when it comes to self-care. For example, how many times have you planned to exercise, but there were other requests for you when the time came? Did you skip the workout?
Now imagine what happens when you have a dentist appointment and things pop up. More likely than not, you keep your dentist appointment and work around it. The reason is a mix of accountability and that many people feel that their self-care is indulgent in some way, and it's the first thing to get postponed. Yet, your health and wellness is the most valuable thing you have! So, by all means, indulge in good health so you can offer your energy and attention in more meaningful ways. Next time you consider skipping something you need for your wellness, ask yourself what the cost of missing it is. You may find that you're able to simplify and prioritize your schedule in a new way over time.
As for accountability, schedule your self-care. Scheduling could mean booking an appointment, or it could mean blocking off an hour on your calendar. (Reminder: you've now discovered through your time tracking that you have at least an hour to spare if you nix checking your email six extra times a day.) For added accountability, schedule exercise with a workout buddy. You'll be far less likely to cancel.
Self-care Beyond Your Daily Routine
Much of your health and wellness comes from your daily routine, things like what you eat, hydration level, working out, sleep quality, and stress levels. Some things incorporate easily into daily routines, such as healthy food, water, sleep, general hygiene, meditation, journaling, and exercise. Others, however, aren't as realistic to implement daily and aren't necessary daily, like unplugging for a full day, massage, float therapy, or chiropractic care.
Of course, our favorite weekly or monthly self-care rituals are:
A 60-minute Float Session
Consistently topping our list is float therapy. It addresses rest and taking a break in a way nothing else can. You're offline, you schedule it, and you have nothing to do but take time for yourself, no distractions. Floating is perfect for a recovery day, too. The high levels of magnesium sulfate (Epsom salt) in the float tank help ease muscle soreness while keeping you afloat and taking the pressure off of joints and muscles.
It provides 'REST' (Reduced Environmental Stimulation Therapy) to truly give your senses a break and a better chance to reset. Floatation therapy is a highly effective recovery methodology, allowing participants to reap countless physical and mental benefits. Participants report a substantial reduction in anxiety and muscle tension, along with a significant increase in serenity and relaxation. The more frequently you float, the more you'll feel the physical and mental benefits.
Aside from feeling incredible, massage has a long list of benefits. According to Mayo Clinic, massage benefits include:
- Reducing stress and increasing relaxation
- Reducing pain and muscle soreness and tension
- Improving circulation, energy, and alertness
- Lowering heart rate and blood pressure
- Improving immune function
Research also suggests massage can help:
- Digestive disorders
- Insomnia related to stress
- Low back pain
- Myofascial pain syndrome
- Nerve pain
- Soft tissue strains or injuries
- Sports injuries
- Temporomandibular joint pain
- Upper back and neck pain
The effects of floating and massage begin immediately and last for days, sometimes longer. As you add floating and massage to your rest days, you'll notice an increase in benefits that stay with you.