Reclaiming a Day of Rest

Adding a weekly day of rest to your schedule may be the best thing you can do for your health—and your productivity.

| January/February 2013

  • Add laughing to your day of rest’s to-do list—it reduces levels of stress hormones such as cortisol.
    Photo By Shutterstock
  • Indulge in relaxing activities on your day of rest.
    Photo By Veer
  • Choose activities that you enjoy for your day of rest. Ask yourself, “Is this restful? Does this restore me?” The answers will be different for everyone.
    Photo By iStockphoto

For many of us, busy work weeks end with weekends jam-packed with back-to-back errands, household chores and other obligations. With these hectic schedules, the idea of taking an entire day just to relax may sound laughable. But while taking a day off might feel like a luxury we can’t afford, a day of rest may actually be a health imperative we can’t afford to give up.

Our bodies require rest to be healthy. The negative impacts of stress range from tight muscles and irritability to increased risk of chronic diseases such as heart conditions and cancer. Not taking vacation time has been found to increase risk of heart attack in men by 32 percent. Rather than considering a day of rest a luxury, we should consider it a necessity.

Testing Out Rest

Humans have long recognized the value of taking a day to relax and abstain from labor. The tradition exists in religions and cultures from around the globe, from modern Christianity to ancient Babylonia. But of course, observing a day of rest doesn’t have to be tied to any specific religion or culture—it’s all about relaxation, whatever that means to you.

Several years ago, in the midst of a way-too-busy life, I decided to create my own weekly day of rest. I wasn’t concerned about limiting my use of cars, computers or other tools; what I needed was freedom. So I decreed that I could do anything my heart desired on Sundays, as long as it entailed no sense of obligation.

Sounds lovely, right? I could not believe how hard it was. Those first few Sundays found me playing computer games for hours. Simple relaxation and self-indulgence were too unfamiliar. I’d been driven for so long by my sense of responsibility that it took many Sundays for me to learn to just breathe and enjoy.

I am so glad I did. Not only did I ease into naps under the oak tree and aimless country drives, but these new habits had a ripple effect throughout the rest of my week. In the midst of a busy workday, I began to notice when I was flagging and would take a restorative break. The result? I cleared my head and got more done.

6/23/2014 8:31:27 AM

When I was searching with my aunt for an urn at website she told me that in every religion from modern Christianity to ancient Babylonia there are traditions to take a day to relax and fill the body with positive energy. Then I understood why my uncle did not work at all on Sundays, he even refused to wash his clothes in the washing machine on Sundays.

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