Do you underestimate the power and importance of rest, like most people these days?
Rest, the act of taking a breather and taking a break. Putting aside time to take care of yourself and look after yourself. It is a very important thing, even if it can be a matter of some debate in this day and age.
Especially in a world where productivity is king, many people brag and feel proud of the insane amount of hours they work, or the full nights they spend awake in the library studying. As proof of this, in 2018 half Americans did not use up all of their paid vacation time (US Travel Association 2018). Even if they had the opportunity to rest and recover while being paid, they choose not to, perhaps because they are afraid to take the time to themselves to rest, likely fearful of what others may think of them.
But why is this a matter of importance? Well, I would point to the impacts of what happens when we do not rest. You often feel depressed and exhausted. Your productivity drops massively, to the point you spend twice as long as you would normally getting a task done. You grow irritable and grumpy, an experience that anyone who had a terrible night’s sleep can relate to.
These effects are not just tied to the workplace either, they affect you physically. You put on more weight due to stress, your immune system suffers and you feel weak (Besedovsky et al. 2012). The irritability also affects your social and romantic life, as you find yourself to be less patient and are likely less pleasant to be around as a result.
And in this age where many people’s mental health is suffering, it is no wonder as to why. Without taking any form of a break, the build-up of stress can be overwhelming, work can feel all-consuming.
With no feeling of escape, and work hours increasing as it can often follow you home, mental health suffers (Alfonso et al. 2017). This can lead to frustration which can all to easily turn inwards towards yourself, as you have a much more difficult time working, at even getting simple tasks done. Even if the main cause for that is simply pure exhaustion.
Taking Time to Sharpen the Axe
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax.” – Abraham Lincoln
I am going to use the analogy of sharpening an axe to illustrate the importance of rest.
When we are exhausted and tired, we are basically trying to chop down a tree with a blunt ax, perhaps even trying to cut it down with a hammer if we hit the point of pure exhaustion.
It takes twice as long to get the same task done, like the ax, representing ourselves is worn out and dull from constant non-stop use. It is much more difficult and exhausting trying to cut down a tree with a blunt ax. It can lead to a sense of hopelessness, that despite swing after swing, the tree is still a long time away from being felled.
But, if instead of constantly hacking away, if we take time to sharpen the axe, to give it a razor’s edge. Suddenly the task at hand will get done much faster, without half as much physical and mental effort, after all, it is much easier to fell a tree with a sharp axe. And with a sharp axe, you can do that without the build-up of frustration, exhaustion and stress both mental and physical, that comes with hacking away for days at a very thick tree, with a very blunt axe.
But, today many people do not feel they have time to sharpen the ax. As they are much to busy hacking and chopping away in order to do so.
But I would say that the reality is that we do not have time, not to take care of ourselves. Even if it may slightly reduce what you can do in the short-term, it will greatly help in the long-term.
Our time in life is finite, we do not have enough time to spend all of it hacking away with a blunt ax. Doing so will take forever, and cause us to miss out on many other parts of life, be it relationships or simply being able to take the time to enjoy life.
Finding the Time to Rest
So then, how do we find time in this busy world to rest up and sharpen the axe? I have listed below a few potential ways that you can carve out some time in order to do so.
1. Make staying sharp a priority.
Self-care is something people often put at the back of their to-do list. So one way to help start might be to bring it forward on your to-do list. After all saying you will do it later when you have the time never ends up really working, as in life there is always something that can come up to claim that time.