Today is my weekly ‘rest day’…at least in theory.
In practice I’m a workaholic and have probably still done too much. For this I deserve a slap on the wrist.
Despite what my busy-body mind might say, rest days are incredibly important – both when it comes to fitness and more generally.
Let’s talk about why that may be.
What Is A Rest Day?
In fitness terms a ‘rest day’ is a day where you take a break from your workout routine and take it a bit easy.
The reason for this day of essential inactivity is very straightforward.
Bodies need to recover. Put them under too much physiological stress and the result is that the body will break. This may not strictly mean broken bones but it might mean stress fractures, joint pain, muscle tension, and potentially even long-term damage.
It can also have a greater impact on your life: causing erratic sleep patterns, general fatigue, decreased immunity, fertility problems, loss of appetite, and mood swings.
All-in-all a disastrous process of self-destruction.
Enter the rest day to save the day by giving the body that essential time it needs to rebuild muscles, rebalance chemicals, and generally make sure you make gains on your health instead of losses.
Nobody wants to burnout, after all.
But, as we all know, burnout is possible in every aspect of our lives, especially in the here and now.
The information age is beautiful, brilliant, and bold, but it’s also bombastic in every regard.
Being connected to the world to such and extent – able to extend our voice across the globe and discover whatever we want (true or not) with a simple Google search – is insanely stressful.
Studies have shown that over one-third of people feel overwhelmed and generally feel unsatisfied with life.
Job stress is a real concern and the state of the economy in many locations is causing a real mental strain for people. People often find themselves working long, hard hours for inadequate pay dealing with increasingly disgruntled customers who are just as stressed.
In some countries such strain is even causing an increase in suicides, but that’s a topic I’d rather not dwell upon.
Instead, I’m here to suggest we take the idea of a ‘rest day’ and make it a holistic practice: identifying not just the physical aspects of our body that might need a break but the mental aspects too.
Rest For The Rest Of The Time
Okay, so rest is important and we’re all in agreement of this, right? Right.
So how do we take a more general rest day?
The first and most important step is to identify the point of strain on your life.
Is it work? Your hobbies? Your relationship?
Only when you know which area of your life is being overstimulated can you press that ever-important pause button to give yourself recovery time.
It should be pretty easy to figure this out. Usually your body and mind are screaming out to you that you’ve reached your limit and will let you know loud and clear. But sometimes this isn’t the case.
If you find yourself highly stressed but with no clue why then it may be time to go drastic and take an entire day off from everything. Deviate from all your norms and take in the simplicity of a life completely unattached.
This is extreme, I know, but nothing helps reach clarity sometimes quite like going straight back to square one.
Either way, once you know your stress points you can create a rest day strategy. This will cater not just to your personal problem but also to your own needs and comfort zone.
In theory the rest day strategy for those stressed by tech, for example, might be to take a near-total break from all advanced technology (I say ‘near-total’ because even rest days involve some gentle movements).
But going from over saturated in tech to nearly cold turkey may be too overwhelming at first. Instead, you may decide to start with a one hour break once a week. You may then increase it to more days or more time (or both) until eventually you’ve made your rest day escape.
This can be applied to any aspect of your life and you’ll know if it’s working based on how you feel. Rest days are hard in the moment but the results very often speak for themselves and they are awesome.
If it’s not working then don’t sweat it and don’t beat yourself up. Life is a work in progress and there is no shame in learning through trial and error. This is how we grow and eventually get to a place where we can be happy: a place where we can be at rest.
Oh, and here’s some parting advice: Don’t forget to fiercely protect your rest day, even from yourself.
Fuck it, especially from yourself.
The urge to fight time switched off in a society that demands we’re forever on is extreme, and we are often our own worst critics.
I should know: As I write this article while jogging on my rest day, in part to remind myself why it’s okay to stop.
The reality is that I deserve a break. So do you. We all do.
I hope this article has helped you realize that and I hope has given you (and me) the tools needed to protect that right to rest and enjoy the benefits it provides.