In many, in fact, in most societies those who work hard are lauded and looked up to. Perseverance, passion and commitment of any kind are indeed noble qualities. The pursuit of excellence and achievement sound, in theory, like something we should all aspire to. But unrealistic and improperly managed expectations can also lead to the kind of poisonous stress that is both toxic and counterproductive.
American college professor Dr Brené Brown, who has spent the past two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame and empathy, cannily observes that ironically, “It takes courage to say yes to rest and play in a culture where exhaustion is seen as a status symbol.”
It’s a true, if somewhat tragic, irony.
Un-busy-ing oneself is easier said than done. We feel compelled to be up to all sorts and to keep scores of balls in the air as we walk the tightrope of life. Let’s admit that when friends, family or colleagues ask how we are, we’re proud to answer: “I am so busy! Things are crazy at work/home! I’ve got so many projects on the go, I can hardly think straight!” Both business and busy-ness of any kind seem to bring meaning to our lives.
But while we all need to bring home an income to pay the bills and enjoy the lifestyle we aspire to, we also need to take time off every now and then. Whether you’re a CEO or a domestic deity, you need time away from that particular role. You need to be a different you; one that can lay down the tools of your trade and the psychological armour of your “game face” at least once a year, if not every few months.
Medical study after study, whether purely physiological, neurological or psychological in nature, attests to the importance of rest and relaxation. They are imperative to human functioning. You have to switch off your work mode brain, your computer and your cell phone every so often, and: Just. Chill. Out.
Just. Do. Nothing. Or nothing much.
There’s no doubt that it’s easier for some than for others to detach themselves from their professional lives and disengage from the digital world, but with a little discipline, it can be done. Think of it this way: Taking rest and time out is, at the end of the day, about relinquishing control and learning to accept that the world will keep turning whether you’re an official part of the process or not.
And you know what? The world will keep turning. So, you may as well look after yourself and re-learn how to rest. Remind yourself how to have fun. Teach yourself to do nothing. You’ll be better for it. More creative. More energised. More tolerant. More open. Happier.
This year-end, we’re calling on you to be courageous. Put away that phone. Close that laptop. Take naps, swims, walks and baths. Hold hands with someone you care about. Stare into a fire or at the stars instead of at a screen. You’ll be surprised by what you find there.