As we approach Memorial Day Weekend, I’ll just be up front and say it: I love summer! It’s my favorite season. We can shed the winter jackets. Flip flops and shorts. Baseball, baseball and more baseball. Warm evenings on the deck with a drink, friends and conversation. And for whatever reason, “life” just seems to slow down a bit in June, July and August.
At this point each year, conversations often turn to, “What are you plans for the summer?” When asked, I respond by telling whoever wants to know about our baseball tournaments, camping trips, and then, the pièce de résistance, our two week “off the grid” up north vacation in August. This is usually where I hear something like, “2 weeks?!?!?! Oh, I could never be away for that long.” And my response is usually the same: “ You could if you chose to.”
There’s a dynamic that we’ve fallen into believing: vacation (or rest) is something that we back into, or squeeze in around all the other obligations that our work requires. And guess what? This line of thinking has made us less productive and more stressed. A recent Harvard Business Review article cites research that proves this point. In it they say, “All of us are too steeped in a productivity culture to value doing nothing.”
Not only that, but the research also indicates that if you want to be more productive, less stressed, and “get ahead”, rest and vacation is the key. So, why don’t we go there? In my experience, it’s because we’ve forgotten how to rest. We confuse “time off” with rest. The problem is that too many of us cram our time off with other kinds of work: the yard, running the kids all over the place, volunteering, etc. Or, on vacation, it’s activity after scheduled activity. We get home, and need to rest to recover from our vacation. And then we act like we deserve some badge of honor for achieving so much during our time off. This doesn’t make any sense.
So if this is indeed true, then how do we shift into resting and vacationing well?
First, let me direct you to a post I wrote a few years ago called “What is Rest?” In it, I give an overview of how to go about intentionally scheduling downtime.
In addition, I have found there are three ingredients that make for rejuvenating rest…
- Refrain from Regular Work. Rest time is not alternative time to catch up on things, it’s not “busy work” time. Turn off the notifications, stop looking at your screens, avoid prepping for tomorrow, and just STOP WORKING!!! Yes, you can do it!
- Practice Silence, Solitude, Stillness. Call it what you will…prayer, meditation, contemplation, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is making space to just be. For some, this comes in the form of a walk in the woods. For others, it may be sitting in the park. Or, maybe it’s just sitting on the deck with a cup of coffee, or your favorite drink. Whatever it is, do it. Just be still and silent for a while.
- Engage with Your People. We all have people that lift us up, that bring us joy, that make us feel good when we’re around them. Proper rest and relaxing includes being with these people. There’s something about edifying relationships that restore us, and make us feel whole again. Whether it’s family or friends, reserve your “rest time” for them. Conversely, when resting, try to avoid being with those who drain you.
So, I leave you with this challenge: Make this the summer of learning how to rest. Schedule it, plan it and take it. If you do, you will find a new world, one with less stress, more productivity, and great clarity. I promise.