In a world in which we are constantly on the go, it is full of pressures, stresses and problems. We’re focused on achieving or we have set high standards and equate living and working at a fast pace with success, believing the more we do, the better we are.
But there is the underlying risk of an eventual physical and mental burnout which we cannot ignore if we don’t take proper breaks. Thus, the need for rest and relaxation is more critical than ever.
It’s time we took better care of ourselves. We know how to do that physically knowing that we need adequate sleep, nutritious food, regular exercise and physical activity, and so on.
But we are also in need of mental rest which is another story. Psychologists have shown that as humans, we think we should always be productive, or else we are lazy.
The joy of living
The guilt associated with laziness plagues us and prevents us from taking a mental break.
According to Robin Nabi, a professor of communication at the University of California who specialises in media effects and emotion, we need to do something enjoyable, something that doesn’t require intense intellectual focus to take us out of problem-solving mode.
“When we rest, we think we’re supposed to use that time productively with problem solving,” Dr. Kristin Neff.
Dr Neff is an associate professor in the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin.
Dr Neff says constantly running through hypothetical problems is not very good for happiness.
Nabi says engaging in something for the simple pleasure of it can also improve our ability to deal effectively with life’s stressors and help us positively communicate and interact with others.
“Having something else to do besides problem solving is really healthy for us,” Dr Neff said.
“We need to indulge in enjoyment and allow ourselves to do something just for the pleasure of it. We should dispel guilty thoughts along the way that we are wasting our time. We’re not—we’re giving our brains the mental break they deserve.”
Binge-watch that series
“If you’re like me, you love getting all cosy and marathoning your favourite series, even if your favourite series is something you consider a “guilty pleasure” (i.e. something not clever or mind-blowing) that’s all right,” he says.
“We need to learn to stop feeling guilty for allowing ourselves some enjoyment, and it’s good for us to indulge in something that isn’t using our problem-solving skills. Stock up on your go-to snacks, set up a little nest, and go for it!”
Take that nap
As kids, parents made us take naps; in fact, it was something we had to do every day, on schedule. And as kids, we resisted these naps, because all we wanted to do was play. Ironically, now that we’re adults, we wish we could nap. Well, why not? Taking a short nap during a lunch break at work could refresh you and make you even more productive for the rest of the day. Perhaps it’s the weekend and you’re at home. You don’t have to fill your day with projects or errands, you really could just take a nap and enjoy a little rest.
Get that massage or spa treatment
If you’ve been desperately wanting to treat yourself to a relaxing day at a the spa or an invigorating massage but have been waiting for a reason to do it, wait no more. You don’t need a reason to relax—you deserve it. Zone out, fall asleep, don’t think of anything or fill your head with plans and worries. Just enjoy the experience. Your body (and mind!) will thank you.
Enjoy some time in nature
A bit of nature hurt no one; in fact, it’s quite the opposite—studies have shown that spending at least two hours in nature every week is extremely beneficial to your health and well-being. You don’t have to do anything challenging or wild; remember that this is all about taking a mental break from problem-solving. Go for a nature walk, float in a lake or in the ocean, sit under some trees or go sunbathing on the beach.
Do something you consider fun
Perhaps you’ve been wanting a salon day, or you’ve longed to indulge in a decadent brunch. Maybe you miss going out to the movies or want to spend the day playing video games. Enjoyment and pleasure come in different forms unique to each of us. It’s all about what you consider fun.
Taking a mental break is the reprieve your brain needs from constantly trying to solve problems and face life’s challenges. We need to remove the stigma and the pressure we place on ourselves for indulging in pleasures we consider “guilty”, just because they are (seemingly) unproductive.
Be kind to yourself, practise some self-care, and take a mental break. /TISG