Resilience Requires Rest

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As I write this, we are a week away from spring break for our students and staff. If you are anything like me, spring break provides an opportunity for a much-needed break, but it also offers a chance to catch up on a list of projects that I have been putting off for the last few months. If I’m not careful, I will look up and be ready to return to school after the break needing to get some rest after a grinding week of project after project. 

Unfortunately, we often glorify the idea of being constantly busy and productive. I certainly include myself in the portion of our population struggling to find time to rest. We wear our busyness like a badge of honor, measuring our worth by the number of tasks we can accomplish in a day or week. But what if this obsession with productivity is harming our ability to be resilient? What if one of the keys to building resilience is taking time to rest?

Rest is not laziness or weakness. It is a crucial component of building and maintaining our overall well-being. When we take time to rest, we allow our bodies and minds the opportunity to recharge and recover from the stress and demands of daily life. But rest is not just about taking a break from work. It’s about intentionally creating space for relaxation and rejuvenation. This could mean taking a nap, going for a walk in nature, meditating, or simply spending time with loved ones. Several years ago, Melissa and I began hiking in an effort to maintain our mental and physical well-being. It provided an opportunity for us to disconnect our minds from work while still staying active. While this isn’t a substitute for physical rest, it is one of the many ways we choose to recharge. After a particularly tough week at work, it isn’t unusual to find me in a stream with a fly rod in my hand. We also find rest in a camping trip or a Sunday afternoon drive. Whatever form it takes, rest should be a priority in our lives if we want to build resilience.

Why is rest essential for us?

  • Rest promotes better immunity and physical health. When we are stressed and overworked, our bodies are not able to operate at optimum levels. We heal slower and are more susceptible to getting sick. [1]
  • Rest promotes self-care, emotional regulation, and improved mental health. In a well-rested state, I am much more prepared to be the best possible version of myself. I handle difficult decisions and unwelcome news much better than when I haven’t taken the time to intentionally recharge. When our minds are at ease, we can better handle both challenges and setbacks. [2]
  • Rest improves cognitive function. Over the past twenty-five-plus years of working with students, I have discovered far fewer ways to improve a student’s ability to perform in class more than making sure they have a good night’s sleep. Unfortunately, we regularly have students that arrive at school after having slept poorly, and they struggle academically because of the inability to get the rest they need. When we take time to rest, we give our minds the space to wander, make connections, and explore new ideas. We can focus and make much more effective use of our time when we are fully rested. [3]

Rest is a crucial component of building resilience, and it is just as important a fuel for our bodies as a proper diet. It’s important to prioritize rest in our lives if we want to continue to handle challenges and setbacks with grace and resilience. I hope those of you getting ready for spring break make plans that include a healthy amount of rest.

[1] Prather, A. A., Janicki-Deverts, D., Hall, M. H., & Cohen, S. (2015). Behaviorally assessed sleep and susceptibility to the common cold. Archives of Internal Medicine, 175(4), 463-469.

[2] Lovato, N., & Lack, L. (2010). The effects of napping on cognitive functioning. Progress in Brain Research, 185, 155-166. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-444-53702-7.00009-9.

[3] Sabia, S., Fayosse, A., Dumurgier, J., Dugravot, A., Akbaraly, T., Britton, A., … & Singh-Manoux, A. (2019). Association of sleep duration with cognitive change. JAMA Network Open, 2(4), e191459.