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  • Writer's pictureAmanda

The Power of Productive Rest: Decrease Burnout and Increase your Mental Health

Asian woman reading a book to decrease her burnout and increase her mental health

Lean in. Listen reeeallll closely: rest is not a break from productivity; it is an essential component that enhances overall productivity and well-being. Phew. How did that feel?

Taking time to rest and recharge allows your mind and body to recover from the stresses and demands of daily life, which in turn boosts your ability to focus, think creatively, and make better decisions when you return to your tasks.

We often support the idea of rest because it plays a crucial role in maintaining mental, emotional, and physical well-being. Rest isn't just about physical relaxation; it encompasses various forms of restoration that can benefit you in multiple ways. Here's why us therapists go on about it and how it can benefit you.

Let’s try and hack rest like we do productivity. Can we make rest productive? Will that make us feel better if we are “winning” at rest? I can’t tell you how many hundreds of people we work with who struggle with the concept of rest, or play. If we can do rest really well - we can feel more restored and rejuvenated. Not just guilty and sheepish about “doing nothing” or “taking it easy”, when really, we are healing our minds and bodies from the inside out.

We know logically you may not ‘believe’ us. Here are some examples of just how beneficial productive rest can be:

  • Enhances Creativity: Rest provides space for your mind to wander and explore new ideas, stimulating creativity and inspiration. Many breakthroughs and innovative solutions have emerged during moments of relaxation and downtime.

  • Improves Focus and Concentration: When you're well-rested, your ability to concentrate and maintain focus on tasks improves significantly. You'll find yourself more efficient and productive during work hours.

  • Boosts Memory and Learning: During restful periods, your brain consolidates memories and information, making it easier to retain what you've learned and recall it when needed. Rest enhances cognitive function, concentration, and problem-solving abilities.

  • Reduces Stress and Burnout: Chronic stress and overwork can lead to burnout and decreased productivity. Rest helps alleviate stress and prevent burnout, allowing you to approach tasks with renewed energy and enthusiasm. It allows your nervous system to reset, leading to decreased levels of stress hormones.

  • Increases Emotional Well-being and Regulation: Taking time to rest and engage in activities you enjoy can boost your mood and overall emotional well-being, leading to a more positive outlook on life and work. It also enables you to process emotions and experiences, leading to better emotional regulation. When you're well-rested, you're more likely to handle emotionally challenging situations with a clear and balanced perspective.

  • Improved Mood: Adequate rest can lead to a more positive mood and a greater sense of overall well-being.

  • Enhanced Productivity: Quality rest can actually boost your productivity by ensuring you're mentally and physically prepared to tackle tasks efficiently.

  • Better Relationships: When you're well-rested, you're more likely to interact with others in a patient, empathetic, and understanding manner.

  • Long-Term Health: Prioritizing rest contributes to better long-term physical and mental health outcomes, reducing the risk of chronic conditions like heart disease, anxiety, and depression, nevermind the usual gastro-intestinal problems that accompany these issues. It is also essential for healing and repairing muscles, tissues, and organs.

To make rest productive or to rest more effectively, consider these strategies when looking to rest:

  • Schedule Breaks: Plan short breaks throughout your day, even if they're just a few minutes. Use this time to stretch, take deep breaths, or do a quick mindfulness exercise.

  • Practice Mindfulness and Meditation: Engage in mindfulness exercises, such as meditation or deep breathing, to relax your mind and reduce stress. Mindfulness and meditation can help you unwind. Spend a few minutes each day in quiet reflection to center yourself, relax your mind and reduce your stress.

  • Engage in Leisure Activities or PLAY: Find hobbies or activities that bring you joy and make time for them regularly. Whether it's reading, painting, gardening, or listening to music, these activities can help you unwind and recharge. Please also, incorporate this into your regular schedule.

  • Set Boundaries: Learn to say no when you need to, and don't overcommit yourself. Setting boundaries with work and personal obligations allows you to allocate time for rest without feeling guilty.

  • Prioritize Sleep: Make sleep a priority by establishing a consistent sleep schedule and creating a calming bedtime routine. Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night.

How to incorporate rest into a busy schedule:

  • Schedule Downtime: Block out specific times in your day or week for rest and relaxation on the regular. Treat these periods as non-negotiable appointments with yourself. Plan as far ahead as possible.

  • Delegate and Ask for Help: If possible, delegate tasks or ask for help when you're feeling overwhelmed - or even better - BEFORE you’re feeling overwhelmed (and resentful and bitter and agitated…) This can free up time for rest. After all, it really does takes a village.

  • Unplug from Technology: Disconnect from electronic devices and screens before bed to improve the quality of your sleep.

  • Remember the 80/20 principle: 80% of your success really comes from only 20% of your activities. What can you get rid of or delegate?

  • Set up Systems: How can you be more intentional about your rest time and work time? Each deserves a full effort. We can often get lost in the content of the task as opposed to the completion of it.

  • Schedule sync with your Cycle: If you are a person who gets a period, plan to engage in rest during your menstruation phase, or if you do not cycle; the new moon. These times are when your body needs the rest from the physiological and psychological cleansing. (We know, this might sound woo woo, but Amanda has been a proponent of this for years and finds the information cycle-syncing brings invaluable!)

How Rest can Decrease Burnout and Increase Our Mental Health

Rest isn't a one-size-fits-all concept. While there are general guidelines for how much sleep different age groups need, the exact amount of rest required varies from person to person. Factors such as age, genetics, lifestyle, activity level, and overall health influence your individual rest needs. Don’t forget about trauma, lived experience, neurodivergence, or even day-to-day capacity.

For example, some people might feel fully rested after 6-7 hours of sleep, while others require 8-9 hours to feel their best. Additionally, the quality of rest matters just as much as the quantity. Even if you're spending enough time in bed, poor sleep quality due to factors like sleep disruptions, sleep disorders, or an uncomfortable sleep environment can prevent you from experiencing the full benefits of rest.

It's important to pay attention to your own body's signals and adjust your rest habits accordingly. Listen to how you feel when you wake up in the morning. Are you refreshed and alert, or do you still feel tired? Do you experience midday slumps or difficulty concentrating? These cues can help you determine if you're getting the right amount and quality of rest - not just actual sleep.

We cannot overstate this: obviously, (or not so obviously) the quality and quantity of rest is individualized. How about we all now, moving forward, accept this as a fact? Keep our eyes on our own lane and not compare ourselves to others? Deal? Deal.

Regularly evaluating and fine-tuning your rest routine based on our individual needs can lead to better overall well-being and increased effectiveness and (gasp!) PRODUCTIVITY in your daily activities. Consulting a healthcare professional, sleep specialist, or even psychotherapist if you consistently struggle with rest or sleep-related issues can also provide valuable insights and guidance tailored to your specific situation.

In our fast-paced and constantly connected world, we often try to fill every moment with activity or entertainment. However, embracing moments of boredom and allowing your mind to wander during periods of rest can actually stimulate creativity.

When you're bored, your brain seeks new experiences and connections. It starts to explore different thoughts and ideas, sometimes leading to innovative solutions, creative insights, and "out of the box" thinking. In fact, many renowned artists, writers, and inventors have attributed their breakthroughs to moments of idleness. Sounds like a win-win. We’d love to think we can reprogram ourselves away from the idea that rest is unproductive, or worse, lazy. And reframe it at least into productive rest. Am I resting the best I can?

Remember, rest is not a luxury; it's a necessity for your well-being and productivity. By incorporating more restful moments into your daily life, you'll find yourself more energized, focused, and ready to take on the world! 🌟


Amanda and Darrell Hammond of Hammond Psychotherapy in Kingston ON

Amanda is a high-achiever who struggles with rest, productive or otherwise, and yet practices it on the regular. She adores her psychotherapy practice in Kingston, ON where she gets the joy of working with others who struggle with relationships, burnout, boundaries, and the overarching difficulties that come with adulting. When not working, you can find her resting through reading, watching baseball, movement, and spending time barefoot outdoors.

Darrell is a great practitioner of rest and is well attuned to his needs. He fills his work time supporting people with challenging family relationships, trauma, anxiety, and work stress. When practicing rest, he loves to spend time in the woods, on long walks and building things.


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