According to a Zippia study, only 6% of workers don’t report feeling stressed at work. And the same study found that 65% of workers feel that stress from their work environments had caused difficulties in their personal lives as well. 

Small changes to how we approach our days can make significant impacts in the stress we feel in our personal and work lives. Rest is an activity that everyone thinks they’re doing enough of, while in reality, resting effectively is actually a mindful skill that we can all learn and continue to improve on. Becoming better at understanding how and why we should rest enables us to prioritize rest in our daily lives, and inspires us to become more balanced, cognizant, and growth-oriented individuals. 

How to make rest a priority

1Start your day right 

Start your day with non-stressful and slow activities to get started on a positive note. For example, a warm shower improves blood flow and a cold glass of water notifies your digestive system to start functioning. Both of these activities gently kickstart your internal systems each day. 

Another helpful morning practice may be doing yoga, reading the news, or going for a walk around the neighbourhood. These activities are great for setting your mental context as you enter into the day, and they can also improve your mindfulness as you manage your upcoming schedule. 

Manage your time

Make the best use of your time by controlling your agenda, showing up prepared, and keeping track of your action items with a tool like Fellow.

2Calendar block time for yourself 

To maintain a balanced, productive mindset at work, consider integrating practices that allow you to prioritize personal focus time. For example, calendar blocking is the practice of blocking set times in your calendar to focus on specific tasks. If your calendar tends to book up quickly and you lack the time to focus on administrative or research tasks, consider blocking a few hours of your day for these activities. Pick a time that is especially productive for you, as this will be your best time to get work done without distractions. 

3Foster a good work-life balance 

A healthy work-life balance means that you’re comfortable creating separation between your work and your personal life. You should also be able to leave work at an appropriate time and take breaks as needed. Fostering a good balance between your own life and your work environment is important for maintaining your emotional, physical, and mental health. 

Working long hours, not taking your lunch break, avoiding personal medical appointments, or answering work communication after work hours are all signs that your work-life balance may be off. Additionally, you may see physical signs like fatigue, inability to sleep, restlessness, frequent headaches, or body aches. Setting healthy boundaries to maintain separation and rest during and after your working periods will prevent these negative outcomes. 

4Practice gratitude 

Rest is much more than physically sleeping. In fact, you can practice rest by offering your body and mind gratitude for the accomplishments that you have completed so far. To practice mindfulness and gratitude more frequently throughout your day, consider these tips:

  • Take time to stand or sit still. 
  • Either with your eyes opened or closed, take in the environment around you. 
  • Notice the smells, sounds, and characteristics of your environment. 
  • Think about the great things around you. 
  • Consider more deeply how these great things came to be, and offer gratitude to the creators of those great things.  

5Understand signs of burnout

Burnout is a state of complete physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion. Burnout is often caused by overworking, lack of appreciation, lack of growth challenges, or continuous time in a negative environment. Some signs that you may be experiencing burnout include:

  1. Constantly feeling exhausted or tense
  2. Feeling frustrated or anxious at the thought of work
  3. Not meeting deadlines
  4. Losing focus easily
  5. Becoming easily overwhelmed
  6. Experiencing body pains
  7. Experiencing insomnia

6Establish an effective sleep schedule

According to a published study that compared job stress to sleep quality, “the average American worker reported 5.3 days of difficulty falling asleep, 6.6 days of trouble staying asleep, and 5.0 days of trouble waking up for work…” 

Practicing healthy sleep habits and maintaining a good work-life balance go hand-in-hand in ensuring that you get your full 8 hours of sleep each night. Some good sleep habits include getting to sleep at the same time each night and waking up at the same time each morning (creating consistency). Alternatively, consider treating your sleeping area as a space of only rest, so your mind will be triggered to sleep when you enter the rest area (in other words, don’t eat or watch TV in your sleeping area).

7View rest as a positive thing 

While we all know sleep to be positive for our health, we don’t always believe that other forms of rest add benefits to our lives. In fact, purposefully practicing rest can inspire more creativity and drive motivation. As we consciously tell our minds to rest, we give them the time and space they need to set aside busy thoughts. This new space makes room for creative new ideas to pop in and inspire your next great project! 

8Discover what relaxes you and add it to your routine 

Starting and ending your day slowly maximizes your mindfulness. This habit allows you to reflect on what went well and what didn’t go so well, or to process through any remaining feelings about your day. Doing something restful will lead your body into a state of relaxation, making it easier for you to fall asleep at bedtime. Consider slow activities like reading a novel, chatting with a friend about your day, or even practicing a nourishing skincare routine. Whichever activity you choose, ensure that it is low stress and low adrenaline so you can get to bed on time and have a good night’s sleep. 

The benefits of rest 

1Boosts productivity

Rest boosts productivity by giving us more creative space to think through challenges, and therefore allowing us to solve challenges in better ways. For any creatives or problem solvers out there, you may even find that your next big solution comes not from focusing on the problem until a solution is found, but actually from taking time to rest and allowing the solution to pop organically into your mind.

2Reduces stress

This one may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s still important! Rest reduces stress by slowing down our pace of breathing, relaxing our muscles, and encouraging our digestive system to function more efficiently. 

In this TED Talk, Kelly McGonigal also shares how making “friends” with your stress by accepting, understanding, and nourishing it with restful activities also helps you be more mindful of the positive impacts that relieving stress has on your body. And when you’re more aware of the goodness that you’re bringing yourself, you’ll feel better about your relationship with stress. This acceptance can lead you to live a longer, less stressful life in the long run. 

3Improves mental health 

When practicing restful activities, we are likely also participating in the things that we love, which further remind us that rest is a positive thing for our bodies. Slow or calming activities like knitting, going for a walk, or watching a feel-good movie give our mind a break from the busy thinking of regular life. We can use this time to experience what makes us happy, and let these happy emotions, rather than the logic or structure of other activities, drive our thinking process.  

4Encourages motivation 

Have you ever felt like you’re less compelled to complete a task because you know you have to do it? Then when you’re not required to do it, the task suddenly becomes more appealing? Choosing to rest also means choosing activities at your own free will. You’re likely going to choose activities that feel engaging and helpful to your current state, and doing so also supports increased productivity and improved mental health.

5Increases focus 

It’s no secret that getting enough sleep at night improves your ability to concentrate, as well as extends the length of your attention span. If you’ve ever had to complete a late night assignment, you’re likely very well aware of this (especially so if you went back to read over your late-night work the next day).

Taking time to rest also allows you to engage in your favourite “distraction” activities. By allowing yourself to indulge in these activities during your rest time, you’ll be ready to tune into your next productive tasks when your rest time is over. 

Parting advice

Managing rest effectively is a skill that many wish to have, but few actually do. Prioritizing rest throughout the day as an integrated part of your daily routine will ensure that your mind is frequently getting opportunities to reset, be mindful, clear out busy thoughts, make room for creativity, and create energy for focusing on important tasks later. Getting good at integrating rest into your life takes time and purposeful actions, like setting a consistent sleep schedule. Regardless of how you seek to add more rest into your life, ensure you’re focusing on activities that feel happy and calming to you.