The human body by its nature is somewhat like a rechargeable battery: first it accumulates energy (during rest, sleep) and then it gives it away (during work, activities). But the modern world is arranged in such a way that it constantly keeps us in a state of flux: you have to have time to do this, to meet that client, you have to answer a call, an e-mail, a SMS, a message on phone etc.
When these irritating factors become too many, it breaks the balance of energy accumulation and expenditure: a person becomes tired faster, less productive, and then burns out.
Psychologists are sounding the alarm: there are so many attention stimuli in modern big cities that people’s biorhythms simply cannot keep up with this rhythm! Our body cannot help but respond to such stimulation with a “superhuman” rhythm, especially since it is almost constant and extremely intrusive!
The rhythm of modern life beats us like a whip, forcing us to move, and therefore to live and breathe (literally and figuratively) faster and faster. We feel the strain of the rhythm at work, in the city and even at home (!), because when we come home we turn on the television with the booming rhythm of commercials, and turn it off only when we go to sleep.
Is it any wonder, then, that in this age of medical technology, people burn out by the time they are 40 or 50 like Christmas candles?
So it turns out that all of us rush through life from Monday to Monday, sticking out our tongues, like hounds on the hunt. But what kind of beast are we poisoning? However, if you think about it, it becomes clear what kind of animal it is, although the conclusion is disappointing, very disappointing…
The modern man is a “panting man”, as a hunter who runs nonstop. Even his breathing is frequent and shallow, and this is the “breath of fear”. So we have to admit that we have simply forgotten how to breathe normally and fully.
The key problem of modern people is that we cannot make a stop, shut ourselves off from everything, catch our breath. People, driven half to death by the rhythm of life dictated by modern civilization, have simply lost the ability to rest.
And this is so important. Without proper rest there can be no normal work. If we take into account that an average modern man is a workaholic, which means that he neurotically strives for some results, then rest, and real and full rest, is vital for him, otherwise he will be in trouble. And he does not know how to rest.
A vicious circle is created: if a person does not know how to rest, he cannot gain strength, and if he cannot gain strength, he cannot realize his plans, and if he does not realize his plans, the desire to realize them increases, so he stops resting at all, and as a consequence, less and less strength is left, so that he goes straight down the road to neurosis.
Rules of rest: why, how, when and how much
How not to burn out on the way to ambitious goals? The recipe is simple. To achieve amazing results, but not to lose strength, you need to intelligently combine workload and rest. Challenge your abilities, set yourself difficult tasks – otherwise you’ll get stuck in one place and won’t be able to reach the top. But after a difficult period, always give your body and brain time to recover.
As studies show, the world’s best athletes did not try to achieve results by sweat and blood. Instead, they systematically alternated very hard training with periods of light exertion and recovery. Similar methods were used by brilliant inventors, artists, writers, and scientists. Dr. Mihai Csiksentmihai found that the brightest minds in history either went about their work with fierce enthusiasm or switched to complete relaxation and recovery.
Alternating workload with rest not only prevents creative burnout and cognitive decline, but also fuels breakthrough ideas and discoveries.
Here is a general consistency common to almost all great intellectuals and creative people, regardless of their field:
- Immersion: full inclusion with a deep, unshifting focus;
- Incubation: a period of rest and recovery when they don’t think about work at all;
- Insight: the emergence of “eureka!” type moments. It is the emergence of new ideas and mental progress.
If you’ve reached an impasse, the best thing to do is to take a little breather, even though it seems counterproductive. Think back to what you were doing when you suddenly had the answers to difficult problems in your head? Chances are, you weren’t even trying to solve them at the time. It’s far more likely that you were just daydreaming while taking a shower or taking a walk in the park.
Lin-Manuel Miranda, author of the successful Broadway show Hamilton, describes it this way: “A good idea doesn’t come to you when you’re doing a million things at once. A good idea comes in moments of relaxation. In the afternoon, or when you’re scribbling in your notebook, or when you’re playing trainspotting with your son. When your brain is on the other side”.
Our subconscious revelations only begin to come out when we turn off the conscious brain.
How to rest properly and with benefit?
There are many kinds of recreation, and not all of them are created equal. For example, sitting on social media is nowhere near as rewarding as a walk in the park. If you have some time and want to spend it fruitfully, choose something from this list:
- Take a walk. It’s the perfect way to get a little distraction and stimulate your creative thinking. Even if you can’t go outside (for example, because it’s winter outside), a few laps around the office or five minutes on the treadmill will still do you good;
- Communicate with nature. Walking in the fresh air and admiring the beautiful scenery will improve your well-being, switch from stress to a calm state and set your brain to creative tasks;
- Meditate. You can talk about the benefits of meditation for a long time. Without going into detail, you’ll feel extraordinary mental clarity, become more productive, calm and focused;
- Arrange a meeting with friends. Feeling at one with others has a meaningful effect on the physiology of stress. Among the positive effects of social connections are increased heart rate variability, shifting the nervous system into recovery mode and releasing hormones like oxytocin and vasopressin that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties;
- Take a nap. A short quiet hour of less than 30 minutes will help restore energy and improve concentration into the evening. But remember, a daytime nap is no substitute for a good night’s rest.
How often should we rest?
Think about resting as soon as your body gives you a signal. Feel free to take breaks during the day, especially if you’re stuck or feeling very tired. The more intense the work, the more often you should take breaks.
Endless work without enough rest is at least inefficient, and at worst dangerous to your health.
The exact ratio of workload to rest depends on individual choice and working conditions. But the ideal is to alternate blocks of 50 to 90 minutes of intense work and breaks of 7 to 20 minutes. That way you can conserve the physical, cognitive, and emotional energy required for high performance.
Weekends are also important. No matter what you do, you must have at least one free day every week. Never sacrifice your annual vacation, either.
Take as a rule: always alternate long periods of work stress with long periods of rest.
On both weekends and vacations, forget about work. Let there be a complete physical and mental switchover, immerse yourself in activities that you find relaxing and restorative.
And lastly, always listen to your body. Feel free to take time off in the middle of the week if you feel exhausted. Every once in a while, you need to score some time off from work so that you can put in your best work later.