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How Purposeful Rest Improves Health

“Don’t underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.”

  ~Pooh’s Little Instruction Book, inspired by A.A. Milne

All work and No Play

Ask anyone over 40, the older one gets that faster time flies! The highest performers in life understand the value of rest.

In my career as a physician I have lived all the stereotypes. I worked 48-72 hours straight, spending weeks without adequate rest or sleep.  My work has special stress dealing with raw human emotion, disease, and the standard hazards of running a medical practice.

Reflecting on my own experience and observation of other doctors, burned out healers are hazardous to their patients and themselves. For the last several years I have carefully worked to purposefully monitor my own emotional and energetic status, alert for signs of burnout.  I began to value rest.

When I find myself resentful of work or patient care–time for a break.  A break can simply mean a short vacation or scheduled down-time.  Many high performers discover that time away from work often leads to the most growth and breakthroughs.

I have written many times in the past about the hazards of chronic stress and how stress can lead to changes in the brain that make us tired, less focused, less enthusiastic, unmotivated and generally less creative.

Doctors are not unique in their need for rest. Protracted stress effects everyone from professionals to homemakers.  The modern world encourages everyone to fill every moment with some type of work fidget.

Purposeful Rest

When considering rest consider the concept of Purposeful Rest.  

I define Purposeful Rest as the deliberate scheduling of downtime from routine day to day work schedules.  The point does not require inactivity but a change in daily routine.   This might mean sleeping late 1-2 times weekly, meditating, enjoying a hammock nap, visiting with friends, catching a movie, playing with the kids, going for exercise or taking a 3 day weekend without specific plans.

Allow yourself to unplug from the daily grind even if for a short while.

Get out of the mindset that you are shirking.  Purposeful rest frees up valuable mental and emotional bandwidth.  Unplugged time allows time for your subconscious mind to work through vexing problems.  Psychologically, the simple release from real or self-imposed  expectations, responsibility, or production can prove very rejuvenating.

I’m not talking about leaving the water running in the sink and ripping a bag of cheerios open for the kids; some responsibilities we must maintain.  However, we must seek brief breaks from routine in order to maintain our maximal effectiveness in our daily lives.

Awareness of stress and stress reduction  are common themes in my writing work.  Purposeful Rest is one more technique to help achieve balance and improve health.

Purposeful Rest does not mean becoming a low achiever or giving yourself excuses for inactivity on major life goals. However it instead serves as a tool for maintaining a balanced approach to life, personal reflection, and re-vitalization.