It’s not an accident that most philosophes and religions incorporate rest.
On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work
God is not lazy and has more to do. It’s the same for most workers, mums, or serious athletes. We always have more emails to read. There are always interesting side-projects. Or another personal record to reach out to. It makes sense that working hard another day will get you there faster. Social pressure will encourage those who give it all. They are the heroes of modern times. Yet, is it beneficial?
In sustained activities, stress builds up in our mental and physical body. Our hormone system and adrenal glands will produce continuously cortisol a.k.a stress hormone. Muscles are stressed and barely repaired.
A chronic performance plateau reveal overwork or overtraining in the case of athletes. We do not improve anymore. Boredom, even fatigue, comes.
Hardly noticeable at first, chronic diseases will settle, and accident risks increase.
But if we incorporate weekly rest, the body can get its balance. Performance and productivity is higher than if we continued working. A good night sleep will have REM phases, possibly integrating new skills learnt during the week.
- Plan a day of rest every week. Do not activities that are similar to your daily schedule. For example, if you are working in front of a laptop, do not play a video game on rest day. If you are a medical student, a day at the library is not a rest day, even if it’s reading fiction books. A day of rest also includes a quality night sleep.
- Plan at least 7 days holidays every year. This is an opportunity to do something different and start a new macro cycle.
- If your life is hectic and stressful during the week, look for calm and low-impact active recovery such as yoga, or meditation. If the sustained activity is sedentary, look for more strenuous activities such as running.
- Athletes can track their heart rate variability (HRV) with a chest heart rate monitor. HRV is correlated to stress and can open your eyes on potentiel issues, such as injuries or sickness. With a metric, it is possible to know the number of rest days and hours required. This metric is also interesting for non-athletes, although not as relevant. Note: there are also Recovery stress questionnaires as a low-tech alternative.
- Fukaura, Atsuyuki. Sep 2012. A five-day work week system and labor productivity/efficiency. Nagasaki University SITE