We all know the value of a good work ethic, but how often do you focus on the strength of your rest ethic? A strong work ethic alone is sure to lead to burnout.

Taking time off and disconnecting seems to be more and more challenging for many of us. In 2020, the average workday lengthened by one hour and a majority of Americans shortened, postponed, or canceled their time off.

However, bolstering your rest ethic can ultimately benefit your work by building enthusiasm, inspiring creativity, increasing productivity, and improving mental health and well-being.

But rest is a skill that has to be learned and prioritized. Looking for ways to create time and space for yourself? Here are five ways to strengthen your rest ethic:

1. Seek “noble leisure.”

Not all rest means “doing nothing” or just lying on the couch. Aristotle’s idea of leisure is far from a passive activity. Instead, the Greek philosopher believed in the concept of noble leisure, where your non-work activity elevates you and fills your bucket. These noble leisure activities provide personal fulfillment, as well as increased energy, and result in self-actualization that brings a greater meaning to life.   

When you spend at least some of your rest time on these types of non-work tasks, you will return to work as a calmer, restored, and more fulfilled version of yourself. 

2. Let go of guilt.

Feel bad about not indulging your work ethic? You’re not alone. In our fast-paced world, we’re often conditioned to believe our value comes only from our work, what we’re producing, or what we are giving to others.

More than half of Americans skip their earned vacation time! Do you avoid taking time off work or feel guilty when you do? If so, you’re harming your mental health and are likely headed for burnout.

In Books for Living, author Will Schwalbe describes a conversation with a high-performing supervisor that changed his thoughts on work and taking time off. When he proudly mentioned he might not be able to take vacation that year because he was too busy, she set him straight:

“I thought better of you. But you’re either a megalomaniac or a fool . . . You’re a megalomaniac if you think we all can’t survive for a few weeks without your contributions. And you’re a fool if you think we can, but still insist on working through your vacation.”

If you’re privileged with vacation time, you would do well not to skip it! Not only is taking time off good for your own well-being, it also helps your relationships, makes you a more effective leader, and improves your productivity and performance upon your return. A guilt-free rest ethic is a metaphorical exhale that helps us sustain our energy and passion.

This is your life. And you are allowed to enjoy your leisure time without guilt—it’s part of a meaningful and well-rounded existence! 

3. Realize exhaustion is not a badge of honor.

Your worth or success is not attached to how busy you appear or how exhausted you are. Being in a constant state of busyness causes stress that can impact your relationships, your happiness, and your work.  

So, how do we stop being compelled to be “busy”?

When you’re feeling overwhelmed, making changes to your day-to-day living can feel like just another agenda item to tackle. But it doesn’t have to be daunting. You can start small, learn to say “no,” and simply let some things go. Here are more suggestions to curb your busyness.

4. Know that not all rest is created equal.

Resting is a skill that can be learned and developed with benefits that include increased creativity, fewer periods of burnout, more passion, and increased enthusiasm.

But know that not all rest is considered equal. Sleep alone will not restore your mind and body. In fact, there are actually seven types of rest you need, including physical, mental, sensory, creative, emotional, social, and spiritual rest.

5. Let your mind wander to reclaim focus.

Modern technology rarely allows us to simply be alone with our thoughts. However, allowing our minds to wander is a key element to creativity and inspiration—a concept often absent in today’s world of immediate and constant access to entertainment and media.  

This information overload leaves us with increased anxiety, lack of focus, decision fatigue, and feelings of being overwhelmed.  

That’s why it’s so important to be alone with your own thoughts! Try walking in nature while practicing intentional silence (no headphones allowed!). Or cook or garden. Unplug from technology for several hours or even a whole day. Here are a few other ideas to help you reclaim focus by allowing space for your mind to wander. 

How do you spend your rest time? Do you prioritize rest as strongly as you do work? Will you think about rest differently now?

P.S. In addition to strengthening your rest ethic, you may want some tips on demonstrating self-compassion. Visit our blog to learn more! 

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