Sleep is the foundation of the rest of your life, from how physically healthy you are to how financially successful you are and the quality of your relationships. Despite this, around 40% of Americans are getting fewer than the recommended hours of sleep each night. This leads to such health problems as obesity, high blood pressure, and stroke.
Night time sleep is not the only problem, however. We live in a busy and active society, which has forgotten the value of rest. During the day, it is important to have breaks in which you allow your body to recover from the stress of daily life, from the office job to household chores. Even if you manage the seven to nine hours of sleep each night your body needs, the chances are that you are active for all of your waking hours.
This non-stop activity can lead to dangerous levels of stress and ultimately be detrimental to your productivity. Take time to stop and do nothing, at least once a day. It may feel as though you are wasting time, which could otherwise be spent on working. In reality, however, you are getting so much done during rest and increasing your productive potential.
The Dangers of Stress for Your Health and Your Business
Stress, in small doses, is beneficial to success. A slight rise in blood pressure increases alertness and cognitive function so that you make better decisions more quickly. It acts as a motivator; an unpleasant feeling that needs to be overcome. Stress ultimately comes from a fear of failure, and this fear is vital to finding the determination to succeed in a competitive field.
However, many freelancers are working so hard and putting themselves under so much pressure that they start to show symptoms of stress that are detrimental to health. Having high levels of stress leads to an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, depression, and headaches. You are also increasing your chance of premature death, with caregivers showing a 63% higher chance of dying than the average person at their age. Despite these risks of significant health problems, the solution couldn’t be simpler: just do nothing.
Maybe you don’t care about your health and you just want to be successful in your career. Well, studies suggest that stress has a negative impact on productivity as well. If you are too stressed, you will receive less enjoyment while doing your work, which makes it harder to find the motivation to do it to the best of your ability. You will also make worse decisions because your mind has gone too far into fight or flight mode, entering panic mode instead. This makes it harder to take a calm, rational approach to a problem. The above health effects will also cause you to take more days off to recover and make it hard to concentrate when you are at work. If you care about your business success, then take rest seriously.
Activating Your Parasympathetic Nervous System
Your body needs time to recover from mental and physical exertion and this comes from simply lying down and doing nothing. In doing so, you are activating your parasympathetic nervous system. Think of it like working out to get stronger; it is the rest days on which your muscles are given the space to grow.
When activated, the parasympathetic nervous system slows the heart rate and relaxes the muscles. This gives the body signals that there is no danger, which turns off the fight or flight response that is caused by high levels of stress. In doing so, you are lowering your levels of anxiety and depression, providing you with a clarity of thought when returning to work. As well as boosting your mood, your immune system will be strengthened and blood pressure reduced. Just a small amount of time spent on rest now prevents much more significant mental and physical health problems further down the road.
How Long Should You Rest Each Day?
It doesn’t take long to activate the parasympathetic nervous system and any amount of time you can fit in is beneficial. You could have short regular breaks, resting for five minutes for every hour of work. Alternatively, you can take one long break, dedicating half an hour of each day to doing absolutely nothing at all. Experiment and see which amount of time feels right for you.
If adding more rest is getting results then do that. If you rest for more than thirty minutes, however, you may end up falling asleep, especially if your sleep time is under the recommended amount. Power napping is another incredibly powerful tool for productivity, but that’s a different discussion. For now, just focus on taking a few moments to rest without sleeping. A power nap gone wrong could lead to a feeling of grogginess, something which is avoiding if you are merely resting.
How to Rest
If your work is location independent, then firstly, congratulations! Secondly, choose a work environment that has a place where you can get some proper rest. This might mean working at home or at least close to it. Make sure you have a couch or a bed on which you can fully lie down in a dark and quiet place. Earplugs and eye masks are a lifesaver if you are struggling to find such an environment.
Once you are alone, close your eyes and don’t let anything distract you. You can use this time to meditate, focusing as much as possible on your breathing. Alternatively, just let your thoughts wander. However, try not to think of anything work-related or any problems that are causing you to be stressed. It might help to play some classical music or white noise so that you can concentrate on this and stop the invasion of negative thoughts into your mind.
Rest is powerful, but a much-overlooked tool, for personal health and business success. Use it to your advantage, taking around thirty minutes a day, in one go or several installments, to turbocharge your productivity. Clearing out your mind of worries will help you to return to work with fresh ideas and increased energy to get more done, to a better standard and at a faster rate.