Take time to rest post-holiday

The 2020 holidays are behind us and many are applauding the fresh start of a new year. I know that as much as I enjoy decking the halls, sharing special meals, gifts and celebrating with my family, I’m weary when the last box of decorations is put away. This year more than ever, after an odd holiday season with more video calls than face to face visits with loved ones, I am ready to rest. Let’s think about how important it is to truly rest, to regroup and allow our bodies and minds to heal with no expectations of how time should be spent. Rest goes beyond getting a good night’s sleep and most of us don’t allow ourselves enough of it.

How many of us leave paid time off from work on the table each year? I for one scramble as my work anniversary nears to use up excess time that I haven’t scheduled away from the office. There was a commercial a few years ago that said, “We’ve heard that over 400 million vacation days go unused every year.” The young children on camera say, “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard,” “They’re PAID vacation days! If you guys agree to travel more, we’ll all do better at school.” and “We’re not asking for much. Just one more day. Because one more day is priceless.”

So often people work incessantly and still have projects waiting to be done. We seldom just “are.”  In our society, there’s an underlying expectation to go, go, go. Rest is considered indulgent, and most people feel guilty when taking a minute for themselves.

The truth of the matter is that rest and relaxation reduce stress and improve overall health. Making time for rest can recharge your ability to deal with commitments, relationships, improve your focus and impact your overall health. As we say at MHA, there’s no health without mental health. An active mind gets tired just like an active body. Including time to quiet your thoughts and letting your mind rest is part of the process of heal and reinvigorating, just like muscles need time between workouts to repair themselves.

The concept of slowing down can seem foreign or at least hard to fit in. When you take the time to sit and rest even for a few minutes a day, you are allowing your body’s cells to recharge. Here are a few simple ideas to incorporate rest into your day:

  • Meditation
  • Exercise
  • Take a bath
  • Read
  • Take a 30-minute walk
  • Take a coffee or tea break with a friend
  • Get a massage to get the blood flowing
  • Get eight hours of sleep
  • Say no to requests if feeling overwhelmed

Allowing yourself to rest doesn’t mean you’re being lazy or avoiding work. There is no reason to feel guilty or uncomfortable about taking time off. It’s a form of self-care to prioritize getting rest and necessary for our overall health so we can be at our best, avoiding burnout while fulfilling our daily responsibilities. We might just increase our lifespans while we’re at it.

Here’s to beginning the new year safely and feeling recharged!

Printed in the Newark Advocate on January 10, 2021.

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