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.

Sleep Well

“Without enough sleep, we all become tall two-year-olds.” – JoJo Jensen

When I was a kid, my grandfather went to bed early. When I say early, I am talking about evening news early, not 9:00 early. In fact, it was a well-established rule that if you wanted to talk to my grandpa, you had to call before the local news went off at 6:30. After that, he was either getting ready for bed or already in it. Now, to be fair, he was up well before the sun, and you could call him at five, and he might already be up and out of the house. As I have grown older, either that experience with my grandpa or genetics has pushed me towards the same kind of rhythm. I am usually ready to go to bed by 8:30 and prepared to get up much earlier than the rest of the house. For me, sleep is critical to be ready to perform at a high level each day.

We are only beginning to appreciate and understand the importance of sleep, and this is especially critical for our students. The world we interact with sends students mixed messages about rest. For many of them, they know it is essential, but they also have other stuff they either want or need to get accomplished. They procrastinate and then stay up late to complete homework. They get immersed in a video game with friends and play until the early hours of the morning. I understand that my sleep rhythm and that of most of society might be different. Still, the importance of getting the correct quality and quantity of sleep is critical to our success. The US Department of Health and Human Services estimates that 50 to 70 million Americans suffer from chronic sleep disorders. Sleep deficiency is also associated with poor judgment, an increase in human errors, and a higher risk of injury for both adults and teens. Without it, we may find ourselves acting like two-year-olds without even realizing it. We need our rest.

In the last month, our lives have been completely disrupted, and our stress levels have increased. It is more important than ever that we get our rest. Research suggests that our sleep can be positively impacted by our decisions, especially those we make in the afternoons. Limiting our intake of caffeine, sugar, and processed foods have shown to improve the quality of our sleep. Exercise and sunlight both have positive effects on our sleep. Limiting our exposure to the blue lights associated with electronic devices just before bed can lead to a better night’s sleep. To be at our best during the day, we must take the time to clear our minds and give our children the same opportunities. 

If you have young children, you have more than likely experienced the effects of lack of sleep. I remember when our son was a newborn, he was afraid he was going to miss something and fought going to bed on a nightly basis. It was during this season of our lives that I started to appreciate the value of a good night’s sleep. On the nights I rested well, I was a better teacher the next day. While I feel for the many of you that struggle to get enough rest while dealing with young children, we must do everything in our power to maximize the quality and quantity of this time. Better sleep leads to better days.