When was the last time you deeply rested?
Raise your hand if this is you: You take a short break in the middle of the day, but a little voice is telling you to do more. Reply to that text. Read that article. Pick up the clutter. Write one more word.
You’re not alone. For many of us, it’s hard to completely unplug and get our minds off of work and productivity. We feel guilty if we’re taking a moment to relax. And we view rest as a form of laziness.
But rest isn’t laziness. It’s how we recharge physically, mentally, and emotionally. We may think that working harder and longer is enhancing our work, but it’s actually working against us. If we actually want to do good work, we need to give our brains and bodies a real break.
And in this digital, wireless age, it’s hard to take a genuine break without also getting distracted by our devices. Whether it’s clicking on headlines or skimming through social media, our screens are zapping our energy..
If you also have a hard time completely letting go and relaxing, here are practical ways that you can take a break and actually get some rest.
The benefits of resting
Feel guilty about taking a break? Here are some reminders of why resting is good for you.
Health. Sitting behind a computer all day can negatively impact our physical and mental health. It’s important to stand up, walk around, and get the blood flowing. Not only will this help you manage stress and avoid burnout, but it will also leave you feeling much more refreshed.
Creativity. Our minds need proper rest in order to make connections. That’s why it’s always easier to edit your writing or brainstorm ideas after being away from your work. Your subconscious has been busy solving problems and editing during the downtime. So take a cue from famous writers and artists and take that walk or cat nap. It’s good for you.
Productivity. Ever notice how much harder everything is when you're running on fumes? Being on beast mode all the time affects our mood and performance. We have a harder time making decisions, communicating with others, and solving problems when we’re exhausted. Taking regular breaks can help you recenter and regain clarity.
Now that we understand the mental and physical benefits of resting, here are tips on how to incorporate restorative breaks into your week.
Go somewhere quiet
Whether it’s the constant ringing of office phones or your coworker’s loud conversations, office noise can be a big headache. Give yourself a break from the noisy distractions by leaving the office and taking a short walk around the block. Or sit in a closed meeting room. Even if it’s just for 5 minutes, a break from the external chatter and noise can give you some relief.
Go for a walk without devices
When’s the last time you went for a walk without turning to your phone? We often try to maximize our walks by combining it with other activities. Like taking a business call or being on the notes app. But try going for a device-free walk at least once a week. This way, you’ll truly engage your senses and notice interesting details around you. It will feel rejuvenating and eye-opening, as you go about your walk with more attention and appreciation.
Schedule a day without meetings
If it’s possible, see if you can give yourself a day without anything on your calendar. No meetings, no social plans, no appointments. Because let’s be honest, coordinating logistics can be exhausting. Plus, the meeting itself can be mentally and physically draining. Whether it’s a Zoom conference or in-person, a meeting requires us to be mentally and socially engaged. It also takes a lot of energy to go from meeting to meeting and then shift the focus to our solo work. So give your mind and body a break by giving yourself a day off from meetings.
Use an email auto-reply
You don’t have to be out of the office to use an auto reply. If you find yourself constantly responding to emails, then you’ll want to set one up. It will come in handy during busy periods and on nights and weekends. A lot of our email anxiety stems from worrying about delays on our end. We worry about coming across as unprofessional or rude. An email auto response gives us peace of mind. By setting this small boundary, you’re getting your nights and weekends back.
Give your senses some relief
Pop-up ads on websites. The bright glare of computer screens. The carousel of videos on Instagram and TikTok. We are inundated with sensory overload. That’s why it’s recommended to give your senses a much-needed rest. Maybe this means putting your phone on airplane mode after 8 PM. Or going for a short walk in the middle of the workday. Or avoiding emails on weekends. Your mind (and your eyes!) will thank you for the break.
Let yourself doodle
We may have gotten in trouble for doodling back in school, but it’s actually good for you and your brain. It can be especially useful to doodle during meetings or class. Keeping your hands busy can help you stay relaxed and engaged. And doodling has been linked to helping you learn and retain new information. And it’s also been known to help with creative breakthroughs. So the next time you’re in a meeting, go ahead and let yourself doodle in the margins of your notebook.
Take more naps
If you find yourself taking naps during the weekend–don’t feel guilty. A short nap can be restorative and give you more energy. To avoid letting your nap interfere with your bedtime, make sure to nap before 3 PM and only for 10-20 minutes. Even if you don’t actually get any napping done, it will feel good to close your eyes and not do anything.
Have a calming bedtime routine
To make sure you have a good night’s sleep, give yourself a calming evening routine. Maybe this means putting your phone away or turning off the TV after a certain time. Or taking a hot shower. Or reading a cozy book before bed. The important thing is to slow down and let yourself disconnect from the day.