Does Rest Matter?

Yesterday, when I got home from work, I fired up my laptop and was greeted with a message from my friend, mentor and coach saying “throw a blankie over your computer and take a five minute break”.  I had just logged in, so that was premature, I thought.  Then I got to thinking about her advice and what might have motivated it.  Not long after, another good friend posted on facebook that he had arrived home, after coding all day and was too fatigued to write code of his own at home.  He was going to rest instead.  Not long after, he blogged about the same subject in depth.

What’s going on?  Suddenly everybody is concerned about rest.  It’s not as if we’ve forgotten that rest matters.

Well, actually, we have forgotten that, haven’t we?  Most people are scrimping on their sleep, leading fast-paced, high-pressure lives, running to stand still and yet whenever there is a spare moment, we feel guilt unless we are unleashing our creativity and making something new.  We’re in a desperate race to survive and pay the bills, but also want to live a rich and fulfilled life.  It seems that the more the pressures of work mount, the greater seems our need to play just as hard as we work.  We don’t want to miss a thing.  As a consequence, something has to give.  That something is rest.

When was the last time you genuinely felt rested?  Be honest.  I know lots of people, myself included, that spend their days pushing through their fatigue just to keep going.  We do a long day of work, including overtime, commute long distances in heavy traffic, attend to all the normal things that family life requires and then we sit down in the evenings and on weekends and expect to compose like Beethoven, paint like Da Vinci and write like Hemmingway.  Who are we kidding?

There’s a whole culture and industry built up around being more effective, producing more in less time, working smarter and living life to the full, even if you are dog tired and crying out for some down time.  Recreation is supposed to permit you to recreate yourself, but you cannot do it without rest.  Meanwhile, segments of the life coaching industry are pushing us all to put in extraordinary amounts of massive personal effort and go that extra voluntary mile, to be a linchpin and stand out from the crowd (who are also putting in massive personal effort, like we all are).  How?  By sleeping even less and being even less restful?

If you get into that long term fatigue habit, which people often call “burnout”, everything you do is an effort, nothing feels like fun anymore, you can’t appreciate and sense the world around you like an aesthete should and you begin to feel like everything you attempt is pointless.  It’s a poisonous state of mind, but the cure is simple.  One of the most important things you can do, as an artist or as a human being, is remember that you are not some kind of artistic mechanism that cranks out work, ad infinitum.  You are, in fact, a mammal.  Mammals need sleep.  Rest is important.

Wouldn’t it be good if we could respect what our bodies and minds tell us and rest whenever we feel the need to do so.  I’m sure we’d all be more productive and creative if we did.  It’s frowned upon to take a nap in the middle of the day (especially in a nine-to- five job!).  We are commanded to be awake at a set time every week day, according to the needs of commerce.  What if you slept badly, for reasons you couldn’t do anything about?  Why should people pretend they are not mammals and wake on command, when not rested?  Why are the needs of commerce paramount and the needs of the creatures that must do the work not important at all?

We’re so conditioned to cramming our every waking hour with activity and neglecting our mammalian need to rest that, when surveyed about what people would do, if there were eight days a week, instead of seven, most responded that they would do more.  Hardly anybody said they would take the extra time to rest.  Is it any wonder we can begin to feel like we’re on a treadmill, neglecting the important things in life and pursuing the ultimately unimportant and unfulfilling, in the name of paying the bills?  Has it gotten to the point where jobs are so little fun, that we so crave doing something interesting and pleasurable in our non-work hours we are prepared to sacrifice our sleep and hence live in a permanent state of extreme fatigue?  Wouldn’t it be better to fix the root cause of the problem, instead of just reducing our hours in bed?

Why the guilt?  Why the mad frenzy?  Resting is one of the most important things we can do to preserve our creative abilities and productive capacities.  It isn’t something we should all be in denial about.  But first, we must remake industry, commerce and the addiction to clocking on and being present, for fear of somebody else taking our livelihoods away.  It’s a form of insidious, collective madness, really.

Throw a blankie over your computer and take a five minute break.

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About tropicaltheartist

You can find out more about me here: https://michaeltopic.wordpress.com/. There aren’t many people that exist in that conjunction of art, design, science and engineering, but this is where I live. I am an artist, a musician, a designer, a creator, a scientist, a technologist, an innovator and an engineer and I have a genuine, deep passion for each field. Most importantly, I am able to see the connections and similarities between each field of intellectual endeavour and apply the lessons I learn in one discipline to my other disciplines. To me, they are all part of the same continuum of creativity. I write about what I know, through my blogs, in the hope that something I write will resonate with a reader and help them enjoy their own creative life more fully. I am, in summary, a highly creative individual, but with the ability to get things done efficiently. Not all of these skills are valued by the world at large, but I am who I am and this is me. The opinions stated here are my own and not necessarily the opinion or position of my employer.
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6 Responses to Does Rest Matter?

  1. Janet says:

    Whoooaaaa… look what a five minute puter nap evolved into!! I think I’ll actual created a workshop called about blankies. I honestly use this technique and tell people about it often.. that’s why I posted. Most of the year my computer AND desk, get a pretty soft green blankie. At Christmas, its favourite is a deep red cozy one. And even though it’s all about my computer having its much needed nap, when I suddenly have some inspired ‘oh I must answer that email!” or “oh, here’s an idea for facebook!” I see the blankie and know I can get to that later.

    (It also works well for a quick cleanup when people arrive. I just tell them the napping computer story.. but there’s a whole lot of paperwork mess also napping under that blankie!)

    Your insights on how we’ve created our insane lives are so accurate… in my previous corporate life, I worked like a dog ( a working dog, I suppose.. maybe a sheepdog out on a farm or something.. because the way I see it, my dog doesn’t exactly work hard) Anyway, I worked like a dog at night with family and a whole pottery business, because I was driven to ‘make more of my day” than just what my job entailed. It was pretty insane. Now, I get to live more in the flow.. if inspiration hits late at night, and I see I don’t have a client too early in the morning, I’ll stay up til the wee hours and then sleep in.

    BUT I still struggle with ‘getting lots in my day”… and am getting less lull time and sleep than ideal.
    I’ve seen this as the life of the ‘inspired’ and sometimes ‘overwhelmed’ and as the independant business woman. But silly me who knows better, more lulling and sleep would be wise. And so, I’m paying attention Michael.. more computer naps and granting myself permission to rest more.
    Thanks!

  2. I love that story about the red and green blankies. I think it’s a great thing to do. Saying that, here I am, responding, way too late at night. 🙂 On the other hand, how wonderful that a few simple thoughts can connect people across the miles. I am, as ever, grateful for your inspiration and for your words of encouraging wisdom. Thanks so much for commenting. I bet the workshop would do well.

  3. Touch2Touch says:

    Yes, rest and solitude, etc — very much on many minds.
    Like mine, here:
    http://touch2touch.wordpress.com/2011/10/14/the-mountains-touch-the-clouds/#comments

    I think you will resonate, especially to the comments —-

  4. sarah says:

    I got here via Rachel Pink’s blog and happened to read it on a day which I’d taken for myself but still needed to hear that it was ok.

    I’d had a stressed week, was facing another one and had one day- Sunday, to just re-charge and putter around at home.
    We had a long standing date to go see my parents-in-law that day, and I didn’t see a way to break that. I mentioned it to my partner, but he wasn’t all too happy about me not coming. With a lot of resistance I was getting ready, then a chronic health issue started to act up.
    I was able to beg off using my health as an excuse.

    What makes me really mad/sad about this is that it wasn’t enough to just have said, ‘I’m not coming, I simply need to rest’- I had to have actual physical problems to justify it.

    Working on changing this. Thanks for a great post.
    Sarah

    • Thank you for sharing that story with the readers of this blog. It is a pity we cannot say when we need rest and have that be all we need to say. I think this predicament illustrates my point amply. We are in denial that we are animals that have physiological needs. I’m glad you found some echo of your feelings in the post and thanks for commenting. I hope you get some rest 🙂

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