Christmas. Regardless your beliefs, we can all agree that Christmas Day in America is synonymous with the word ‘rest’. With the exception of a few key businesses, the world around us shuts down, bringing a serene stillness to the land. The roads are eerily empty, the enormous Wal-Mart parking lots devoid of life. For this one specific day each year, we let go of work, obligations, and all other distractions. Notwithstanding the excitedly-screaming children and the large family dinners, Christmas is a day of rest.
Rest is necessary in life. Unfortunately, according to a survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 83% of respondents stated that on average they spent “no time” relaxing on a daily basis. Rather, according to doctor Matthew Edlund, most individuals “consistently overschedule, overwork, and overdo.” Americans in particular tend to use fewer vacation days as compared to other countries, having an average of nine unused vacation days each year. Americans are also more apt to check work email or do work even while on vacation.
While working “above and beyond” is oftentimes a necessity (especially for business owners or those growing side businesses), it is critical that we take time to rest on a regular basis. While we often attribute the need for rest to its relation to exercise, where rest is necessary to prevent over-training which can result in decreased performance, fatigue, and mood swings, the same is true regarding the use of our brains. Studies have found that human productivity begins to decrease after approximately ninety minutes of engagement. Taking a break, or switching gears to something entirely different, is necessary at such point to give your brain time to both process what it has just achieved and to recharge for future activity. This is why individuals such as Albert Einstein and other high achievers routinely worked for only a few short but intensive hours per day before resting in order to spur further creativity. Successful individuals also tend to both nap more and sleep longer.
Rest isn’t just necessary from day to day, but also as it relates to longer periods of life. To use the seasons as an analogy, everyone goes through different periods and transitions in their lives, and it is important to understand the place and role of rest in each of these. There is springtime, where you may be entering a new period of your life as you begin a new career or start your own business. This time period gives way to summer where you are in the hot grind, working the fields as your grow your career or business. In both of these seasons, periods of rest may be shorter as your activities may necessitate the use of higher amounts of energy. But spring and summer give way to fall and winter, where you are able to enjoy the fruits of your labor and enter a time of rest and reflection before the cycle begins anew.
Different activities have cycles of different lengths, meaning that you must go for different lengths of time between periods of rest. Some activities in your life may cycle yearly, such as the school-year, bringing you to a summer vacation for rest. Activities like your job on the other hand may cycle weekly, bringing you to the weekends for rest. Yet other activities, such as raising children or preparing for retirement, may consume years of your life and may require longer periods of time between rests. In all of these examples, make sure that you either establish or follow pre-set rhythms that allow for times of rest so that you may escape the busyness, renew your energy, and refocus for each task.
This final week of 2017 is a perfect time to enter a brief “winter”. Chance are high that within the next two weeks you’ll find yourself back in the middle of “the grind” as the world wakes back up from Christmas and begins to sprint through 2018. Therefore take time this week to simply rest in whatever capacity works best for you. Then take some time to reflect on 2017, to review whether you achieved your goals for the year and also to consider your actions and activities. This will aid you as you begin to map out your vision and goals for the year ahead.
Happy 2017. See you in 2018.
Jeremiah Clark, M.A., is a healthcare IT consultant with six Epic Systems certifications. He is also the co-owner of Appalachian Digital, a website development agency. You can contact Jeremiah at JeremiahSethClark@Outlook.com or connect with him on LinkedIn at Jeremiah Clark.