Prioritising Rest

After the writing the post on solitude, it occurred to me that hand in hand with that notion is another, vitally important one – prioritising rest. The modern life makes it easy to be ridiculously busy all the time – for us there are sports (ours and kids), work (home and away), recreational activities, farming work, household work and so on. I’m sure your list is just as long and when kids are added to the mix then the time available for rest becomes minimal. If the demands on your time are extortionate then rest is relegated to the distant future – “I’ll rest when I’m dead!” kind of mentality.

The problem is, when tired all those many other tasks and activities become so much more onerous or worse – dangerous. Driving while tired can be equivalent to driving while under the influence of alcohol and yet, we will manage our drink intake, but not our rest. Conventional wisdom and scientific enquiry seems to suggest 8 hours of sleep a day is required for the average person to function, however, during the day we will have peaks and troughs in our activity cycles and at some point you really need some down time. How many of us take advice from this and stop for a bit? I don’t think many of us do – and I’m as guilty as anyone else.

Over the weekend I was pondering this – a huge week at work, including many kilometres travelled, a couple of very late nights and then a full Saturday and Sunday morning meant I was very low on energy after lunch Sunday. I could have pushed through – there are so many things to do, but I decided to prioritise rest first, then attack other things later. So I crashed on the bed with a book for an hour and a half and got up refreshed afterwards. Then I tackled those other jobs and there was one in particular where being alert probably stopped me getting hurt. I was fortunate that my reflexes were on point – and going back to my pre-rest time it’s entirely likely that I would have been injured. I had also read about the Japanese businessmen and women passing out in the street from tiredness. Here is the article: – how terrible is this? I can’t imagine passing out on the street in this way and yet it’s not unusual.

As I’ve experienced it, it seems a bit like a faux pas to be interested in rest – especially now where there seems to be kudos attached to long business hours, excessively hard work and minimal sleep or rest. I don’t understand this. How does a 60 hour work week get you anywhere? When is that fun? Unless of course your work is something you willingly pour that time into, but even so – doesn’t a person’s creativity suffer as a result of tiredness? Mine certainly does – hence why the blog posts have been somewhat sporadic lately – busy at work, busy at home and too tired to be creative. This was one of the triggers for me to review my energy output – there was no slack available and I was running at 110% of my capacity. Even now I can feel a cold threatening because I’ve pushed too hard. This is a clear warning symbol to me – SLOW DOWN! REST FOR FUCK’S SAKE!

So I have said no to some activities and I’m somewhat limiting the travel I’m doing this week (I say that but I’ll still clock in at least 1000kms of travel). I’ve also said no to several other (what might be fun) activities to preserve energy for big things – namely spending time with the family and selecting activities for the fun and happiness they bring. I’m pushing back on work to limit the time I spend on it, and being smarter about the work I’m doing. Having just finished a Mental Health First Aid course there is a tangible link between rest and quality of mental health that has become apparent. Tiredness affects mood and the ability to apply good decision making, so putting the time aside for rest is pretty important.

I know that it can be hard to do this – to prioritise rest and by extension, yourself over the many gazillions of other things we could be doing, but just like when I talk about focus on spending rather than saving, we can see a parallel here. What are you spending your energy on? What’s the return on that spend and what is the cost associated with it? Fortunately energy levels recharge with sleep and good food so it means we can get back to things again tomorrow. The better your rest then the higher your energy levels will be so the more you can enjoy what you’re doing, and get more creativity out of your activities. It’s part of a big system and I don’t think we as a society do it very well. I know our household has room for improvement – across all members young and old.

To finish off I urge you to consider your rest within the context of your life and assign a higher priority to it. Better rest and more of it will improve all other facets of your life. Combine with better eating and exercise and I think you’ll get great returns. Here’s to managing it better!


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