My parents were firm believers in honoring the Sabbath. Coming from the Christian tradition, this meant that we observed a day of rest on Sundays. On this day, no household chores (aside from cooking and washing the dishes) could take place. No knitting or mowing the lawn. And absolutely no shopping.

Now, the shopping part was not much of a choice during my childhood, because I lived in Sweden, where the stores were closed on Sundays.

However, as I grew older – and stores started being open on Sundays – these rules started to annoy me a bit. What’s so bad about going shopping on a Sunday? What if I need to do homework?

When I left for college, I rebelled against the day of rest. I sat in the library every Sunday from the time it opened until it closed at midnight (yes, I was a really fun college student…).

While I supported my husband through graduate school, I would often babysit on Sundays. It was a great way to get some extra cash, but not very restful.

And when I entered the management level in the corporate world, weekends didn’t really exist anymore. I used to joke about the fact that “it doesn’t really matter what day it is, because I’m always working.”

You Need a Day of Rest to Avoid Burnout

Guess what? I burned out.

I had several of the symptoms that Royale Scuderi describes in her excellent article, Warning: You Have Entered the Burnout Zone:

  • A pervasive sense of failure and self-doubt
  • Loss of motivation and interest in my job
  • Lack of a sense of satisfaction and any feelings of accomplishment
  • Extreme exhaustion and lack of energy, feeling completely drained
  • Increase in conflicts both in the workplace and at home

I realized I could not continue the way I was going. But what to do? I had a demanding job with an expectation of always being “on.” (I.e. checking email, answering the phone, etc.)

I thought about my parents. They were very busy people, but they always seemed to have an abundance of energy. And they loved their jobs. What did they have that I didn’t?

A day of rest… A built-in day to relax, be in the moment, and nurture relationships. A day of preventative health care.

Remember How to Rest

It amazes me how much we forget and then remember as it relates to our health and general wellbeing. We have so much to learn from our parents, our grandparents, and other people who came before us.

I love LJ Earnest’s article, Productivity Lessons From Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Farmer Boy”. (And not just because I am a huge Laura Ingalls Wilder fan.) One of the productivity lessons from this article is called “Truly Rest Regularly.” Like my parents, the people of that time had it figured out. Only minimal work was done on Sundays. The day was set aside for resting and reading.

In an interview with 96-year-old Bill in a regional magazine, the author writes:

“Bill said he used to just dream of Sundays. They would take the day off from farm work and go to church while his mom or Aunt Bess would stay home and cook. After church, they would pack a big picnic and head off to find a good spot by the creek. After eating well, they took off their shoes to play in the creek or just lie down on the grass and enjoy it.”

We were pretty good at resting when we were kids. Spending long summer days at the pool, playing Monopoly for hours on rainy days, or snuggling up with a pile of good books. Remember those days and try to incorporate that resttime back in your life.

Schedule a Day of Rest

When I finally realized that my parents were onto something, I made a commitment to observe a day of rest. Sundays made sense for me, but obviously different days will work for different people.

The first few months I started with what I call a “digital sabbath.” I let the computer rest for a whole day. This eliminated a good chunk of work and enabled me to rest.

But eventually, I wanted to take it to the next level. So I made a simple rule:

Don’t do anything that feels like work.

Doing laundry feels like work. Cooking doesn’t. Turning on my computer feels like work. Watching Lost on Netflix doesn’t. Reconciling credit card statements feels like work. Reading a novel doesn’t.

This rule will manifest itself differently for every person. (Isn’t it wonderful that we are all unique?)

Sunday is now my favorite day of the week. It is the day when I can read in bed until my stomach starts to growl. It is the day when I don’t have to spend time in front of a screen. It’s a day to spend time with family and friends – or alone.

And when Monday rolls around, I’m not panicking, because I know Sunday is just six days away. And I’m ready to tackle whatever work comes my way in a productive and healthy manner.

So what are you waiting for? Claim your day of rest today and make it your own.

Do you have rest time built into your schedule? If so, what does it look like? If not, what’s stopping you?

(Photo credit: Young Lady in Hammock via Shutterstock)

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