Did you know that 60% of Americans report sometimes feeling too busy to enjoy life? What’s more, 12% report that they feel that way all or most of the time. We are a nation of perpetually busy people, and never is that more true than immediately before and during the holiday season.
Between putting up decorations, buying gifts, cleaning the house in anticipation of guests arriving, and preparing festive food, there are a lot of additional responsibilities on our plates at this time of year.
This busyness can lead to feeling exhausted, burned out, and chronically stressed. It can even have an impact on your physical health.
It’s important to note that when we talk about “rest”, we are not exclusively talking about sleep (though sleep is one vital aspect of rest.) We are also talking about any behavior designed to boost your physical and mental wellbeing by getting away from the stressors of life. Taking a nap can be rest, but so can going for a lunchtime walk, reading a book, watching television, spending time with a loved one, or practicing yoga.
Read on to learn why taking a break—however that looks for you—is perhaps the single best thing you could do for your health today.
Rest Boosts Your Immune System
At this time of year, your risk of illnesses from viruses such as flu, the common cold, and Covid-19 is higher than ever. This means that your immune system needs all the help it can get to keep you healthy. Did you know that a lack of rest can have a direct impact on your immune system, leaving you more susceptible to many illnesses?
Your brain releases proteins called cytokines during sleep. These form a vital part of your body’s response to infections, inflammation, and stress. So if you find you’re getting sick more often and more easily, increasing the amount of rest you’re getting is a great first step to breaking that cycle.
Rest Improves Brain Functioning
Have you ever gotten stuck on a task, walked away from it for a few minutes, and then returned knowing exactly how to complete it? If so, you’ve seen evidence of how rest helps your brain to function at its best.
Your brain, like your body, needs a break. If you don’t give your brain time to pause and regroup every now and then, it cannot operate optimally. Pushing your brain too hard and for too long is also a major risk factor for burnout and chronic stress.
When you take regular breaks, you may find yourself feeling less stressed, being more productive, and solving problems more easily.
Rest Makes You More Creative
It is almost impossible to be creative when you are chronically stressed, because there is simply too much noise in your brain to allow your creative self to flourish.
According to author and consultant Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, speaking to Els van Asseldonk of Insider, the parts of your brain responsible for creativity are most active when you do not need to focus. Therefore, when you take time off and allow yourself to pause from the stressors of life, you give your mind the space to relax and allow new ideas and inspiration to flood in.
Rest Boosts Your Mental Health
Regular and restorative rest is vital for mental health, particularly during times of heightened stress such as the holiday season. Resting allows you to step away from the things that are stressing you out, regroup, and come back with more physical and mental energy to handle whatever life is throwing at you.
Rest also helps you to feel calmer, clears your mind, and aids in positive thinking, all of which can lead to better mental health outcomes.
Rest Helps Your Relationships to Flourish
You cannot show up as your best self for the people in your life—your partner, children, family, friends, neighbors, and community—if you are burned out and exhausted. When you have many other people relying on you, it can feel selfish to take time for yourself.
But in fact, regular rest can help you to be more present for those who matter most to you. “You cannot pour from an empty cup”, as the expression goes. In other words, you cannot effectively take care of others if you are not also taking care of yourself.
So instead of viewing rest and “me-time” as time away from your loved ones, view it instead as an investment in the overall health of all the important relationships in your life.
Now go and take a break. You deserve it!