No, really. There is such a thing as “bad’’ rest.
Did you know, for instance, that whatever you choose to do during off-duty periods like evenings, weekends, and vacations should ideally be as different from your work as possible?
And not just different in the sense that one activity earns you money and the other makes you happy and relaxed.
The difference should also be in the execution and mental faculties required.
Reading a novel by your favorite author to unwind from a long day of reading through reports is not actually rest, as your brain is being taxed as if you were still at work, even though you personally may not notice it in the moment.
In the long haul, if you do not give yourself time to adequately detach, recover and recharge through rest, you will invariably either need to invest more effort in your recovery, or risk suffering from burnout.
“Meijman and Mulder’s (1998) Effort-Recovery (E-R) model proposes that employees in choosing to work hard would invest considerable effort over the short-term that involves changes at the physiological, behavioural and subjective levels. This can be seen as a ‘cost’ to the individual, but when employees ‘step away’ from their respective tasks, as happens during a break or at the end of the working day, then this allows their psychobiological systems to return to normal and stabilise at baseline levels, thereby facilitating recovery. If recovery does not occur, such as through long working hours, then this can cause a decline in health and wellbeing; and requires compensatory effort, as well as the need for recovery to increase.”
It is evident that we need to be more mindful and intentional about how we spend our time away from work, as this will ultimately contribute positively to our on-job performance, and our general well-being too.
One of the most widely used methods of measuring rest is the the Recovery Experience questionnaire, developed by Sonnentag and colleagues and it covers four elements in seeking to understand the concept of recovery from work.
1. Psychological detachment
“This involves ‘removing’ oneself from the work environment by focusing on those non-work options that one is pursuing or wishes to pursue.”
Effective rest requires a mental separation from whatever challenges or even triumphs that you’re currently experiencing at work. Leaving the office is not enough if you’re going to mentally carry your workload with you to your home. In order to recharge, you’ll need to consciously detach and fully immerse yourself in your leisure.
You can achieve this by setting firm boundaries for instance do not check your work email outside of office hours or even discuss your current project over dinner with your family.
“This involves activities, such as walking and listening to music with an end result of restoring positive affect.”
You need to have a dependable activity that will effectively take your mind off your work and restore your mental and physical state to one of rest and relaxation.
We face various challenges in the daily demands from our work which often require a heightened state of mental focus and activity, making it imperative that we figure out ways to return ourselves to a more natural state of rest from which we can effectively recover and refill our tanks, making us capable of returning to work and focusing as much as we need to.
The stress that you naturally have to deal with at work will not become an issue as long as you’re careful to allow yourself adequate rest and recovery.
“This involves taking part in challenging non-work activities, such as learning a new language or strenuous climbing of a hill or mountain that should allow total distraction from the job as well as facilitating learning opportunities.”
It is especially useful if you have trouble taking your mind off work. Getting involved in an activity that will require mental focus in an area unrelated to your job will essentially force you to rest your work-related faculties, as you’ll be too focused on your hobbies to worry about whatever you left at the office.
“The final element of control involves having a choice in what can and could be done during leisure time.”
Even if what you’re doing falls in line with all the previous requirements, it will not work as effectively if you spend that time thinking about how you would rather be somewhere else.
It is important therefore to only engage in those activities that we find to be intrinsically enjoyable and at times when we choose to do so.
It is inevitable that we may have to attend events that we are obliged to be at, possibly due to work or family connections but the important thing is to remember to schedule our own recovery periods in between, and always remember that stressful “rest” is not rest at all, just because there may not be any “work” involved.