In order to be healthy, we need to nourish our bodies with a healthy diet and regular exercise. Rest and relaxation are also critical for a fit and healthy body. In a culture where you are expected to be busy all the time, resting is often forgotten. There is constant pressure on us to push our fragile bodies to keep working and to keep performing. We work too much and rest too little. Many of us sleep too little and we don’t give ourselves enough time to recover.

Relaxation Reduces Wear and Tear on the Mind and Body

First and foremost we need to make rest a priority. Not because we are lazy but because we need rest to stay healthy. For example, relaxation increases blood flow while reducing blood pressure and lowering heart rate. Relaxing your body also reduces muscle tension, back pain while enhancing concentration.

Shorting yourself on rest has a definite negative impact on your health.

Be honest – if I start talking about rest and relaxation, you’re secretly thinking about “couch potato,” right?

It’s critical to understand that resting and relaxation isn’t synonymous with laziness. When we say “relax” we mean a change of pace from the routine. Activities such as gardening, walking outdoors, taking a relaxing bath, listening to music, or using relaxation methods like meditation are particularly helpful in bringing about a state of calmness.

The important part of relaxation is not “to do nothing” but to achieve positive health goals. It is an effort to refocus your mind away from stressing over job-related problems or worrying about problems at home and envision happy and positive things. What you should avoid doing is indulging in things and activities that might feel pleasant at the moment but cause health problems and have no long-term beneficial effects: being lazy, using drugs and drinking, and over-eating are examples of harmful and indulgent activities.

What happens if I don’t rest?

With so many of us working longer-and-longer hours to keep up with the growing demands of work, just to keep up, the importance of rest is often ignored. Instead of taking time off or traveling, we are under pressure to dedicate ever more time to all of our work and family commitments.

Many of us think that to rest is to quit, as if rest was just another form of failure. So we wait, delay, and ignore the need for rest, and the result is that you are paying the price with your health.

Shorting yourself on rest hurts your mood and performance in several ways:

  • Being moody is the warning sign of too little rest.
  • When you are exhausted you are less likely to participate in activities that you would otherwise enjoy.
  • People become more irritable if they short themselves to rest.
  • If you fail to rest, seemingly small events can become major conflicts.
  • With insufficient rest work, work performance also declines. Research shows that sufficient rest improves workplace performance.
  • Even missing an hour or two sleep will have a negative impact on how you feel and perform.
  • Lack of rest can negatively affect your ability to process information, think, and remember.
  • People who don’t rest enough are at greater risk of car accidents. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drowsy driving accounts for many injuries, car crashes, and about 1,500 fatalities every year.

Insufficient rest can pose serious health problems:

  • Risk of physical injury
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Stroke
  • Depression
  • Heart disease
  • Burnout
  • Compromised immune system

Why rest is so important?

Rest isn’t about avoiding your responsibilities. Rest is important for your health and for performing at your best when you are working. Rest is a way to protect your health. Studies show that people who take more vacations live longer. A study by the University of Pittsburgh Body-Mind Center found that the frequency of vacations positively impacted the life expectancy of people with a risk fo heart disease. Further research showed that men who took yearly vacations reduce their overall risk of death by around 20 percent, and particularly their risk of death from heart disease by up to 30 percent.

Another study found that rest, leisure time, including vacation can help reduce levels of clinical depression. Research also revealed that women who don’t take time off are more likely to be burdened with depression and according to one study, 50 percent more prone to have a heart attack.

Beyond health, rest is critical for good performance at the workplace.  People who are sufficiently rested are more likely to take pleasure in their work. We are also more creative when rested. According to a study by the University of York and the University of Florida, more than 40 percent of our creative ideas come to us while resting, when our minds are relaxed and destressed.

More rest might also help you earn more. Project: Time Off found that those employees who take all of their vacation time are 6.5 percent more likely to get a raise or promotion than employees who leave 11 or more paid days off leftover.

How much rest is enough?

How much rest is enough is dependent on a variety of individual variables such as sleep habits, dietary habits, physical ability, age, and lifestyle activities. How can you tell it’s time to rest? It’s easy. When you feel like you need a rest, you should listen to your body. Your brain clearly communicates the need for rest. Ignore it at your own risk. If you are one of those people who push extremely hard all the time, you will find that it is a battle you are guaranteed to lose.

When your mind resists the need for rest, there is normally a reason, but never a good one. Some people ignore the need for rest because he or she got away with it in the past. Others take pride is pushing too hard for too long. The only healthy approach to rest is to allow sufficient recovery.

Why are you not getting enough rest?

Many of us don’t realize how important rest is. Instead, we believe resting is synonymous with time-wasting. Time spent resting is time well spent. Rest isn’t a luxury, your brain needs it to function properly. We need to rest to form memories and to do what we need at work and at home.

Some people think that they can cheat by consuming large amounts of stimulants such as caffeine. Consuming large amounts of tea and coffee does the opposite of help. Caffeine prevents a good night’s sleep.

Eating and drinking late can also prevent you from sufficient rest. If you eat too close to bedtime, you could suffer from heartburn and discomfort in the chest. If you want to optimize your resting time, avoid late meals. Reject the urge to have a snack before bedtime. If you limit your fluid intake before bedtime, it is less likely that you have to use the toilet during the night.

If you are stressed, it can interfere with your rest. Although we are living in exceptionally stressful times with the current pandemic, proper sleep is one way to improve our ability to cope with it. Give yourself a chance to calm down and destress before going to sleep. Search for ways to reduce stress in your life.

Here are some additional reasons you might not get enough rest:

  • Failing to wind down before sleep such as playing video games could be a reason for not enough rest.
  • Some over the counter and prescription medicine can disturb your sleep cycle.
  • Asthma or painful arthritis could prevent you from getting sufficient rest.
  • A changing work schedule or jetlag can disturb rest.

How much rest do I need?

Rest is incredibly important to enhance your performance, restore your health, and achieve an incredible sense of well-being. Rest can and should be incorporated into your everyday schedule.

To be well-rested, you should incorporate the following into your daily routine:

  • Take a siesta – Mapping might not be realistic every day, but a short nap is a great way to relax and rest.
  • Rest easier with gratitude – Gratitude is not just about reducing stress. It is also about living in the moment, taking time to be thankful, and rest. Take a mental inventory of your thoughts, put your mind and body at ease.
  • Take a mental and physical break to rest by removing yourself from the stressors of the day. Use your time out to connect with your emotions and thoughts. Even a short break has the power to rejuvenate your spirit.
  • Plan time away from your routine. You can do this by taking a vacation or a staycation or any length. It gives you an opportunity to pause your life and reflect. When you return from your vacation you will be well-rested and energized.
  • If you want to rest give caffeine a rest.

How to rest better?

Treat rest as a fundamental part of your health and well being. With the demands of your professional and personal life, you might be tempted to put rest at the bottom of your priority list.

Keeping a consistent sleep schedule will help you rest better. If you wake at the same time every day your body will benefit from the routine.  Spending time doing a relaxing activity before bedtime is also critical for optimal rest. These relaxing activities such as reading a book, listening to music, or taking a relaxing bath should be part of your everyday routine. Making these activities part of your routine you are training your body to associate these activities with rest.

Disconnect from your smartphone and laptop. Electronic devices keep your mind racing. You want your mind to relax when it’s time to rest, so put away your digital devices at least thirty minutes before going to sleep. And if you wake up in the middle of the night don’t check your phone or the time.

How does rest impact your appearance?

Insufficient rest for extended periods can negatively affect your appearance. It can cause premature wrinkling and dark circles under your eyes.

Many of us feel uneasy and even guilty about resting. Often, we pay the price of declining health, poor performance, and burnout. Prioritizing rest, and taking time off before you damage your health and wellbeing is critical.

Relaxation the northern European way, Niksen.

Niksen is the Dutch concept of doing nothing. The meaning of the word, Niksen, is “to do nothing.” Others think of Niksen as being idle or doing something without any use. But, people agree that Niksen is an excellent way to manage stress.  Practicing Niksen could be as simple to kick back and relax, observing your surroundings, taking a bath, or listening to music. The secret is to do something without a specific purpose. Niksen is about carving out some time just to be, letting your mind wander.

To take part in an activity without focusing on the details of an action. Niksen is about combining relaxation with easy, repetitive, semi-automatic activity, such as crocheting. Part of Niksen is to figure out what relaxing activities fit your personality the most.  There isn’t a one size fits all activity; part of the process is to discover which activities are the most relaxing for you through trial and error.

Niksen can no longer be dismissed as just another form of laziness. As a matter of fact, Niksen is a valuable stress-fighting technique tactic we should welcome in our ever more stressful lives.