In a world where being busy is worn as a badge of honour, where needing extra hours in the day and being powered by caffeine is part of the ‘norm’, choosing rest is a radical act. Many of us feel compelled to push our bodies to the brink, to keep saying ‘yes’ to things when we’re burned out, and to cast relaxation to the wayside. We tend to think of downtime as a luxury we cannot possibly indulge in, but choosing to relax is a critical component to maintaining your physical and mental health, being happy, and creating your best work.
As creative business owners and freelancers, our complicated relationship with rest is heightened by the irregularity of our income. Resting is something that we squeeze in between jobs, if we can, but this is a false economy. How productive are you when you’re exhausted, overextended, and uninspired? Science, it seems, has the answer.
Rest improves your health. When we’re overworking ourselves, our exercise routines, sleep habits, and diet tend to suffer because we’re exhausted and simply don’t have the capacity to prioritise these pillars of good health. Many studies have demonstrated that overwork leads to poor circulation, heart problems, high cholesterol, adrenal fatigue, subpar concentration, nervous problems, depression, and anxiety. That’s a frightening list!
Rest helps your productivity soar. It has been proven that taking frequent short breaks throughout the day is beneficial to our performance – but they need to be certain kind of breaks. A mindless Instagram scroll or reading blogs like this one don’t count (sorry!). For a break to actually have a regenerative effect, you must completely disconnect from whatever it is that you are doing. The best way to do this is a stroll in the great outdoors (bonus points for meandering through a green space), sans phone. A quick disco nap is also restorative if you can get away with it.
Rest boosts your creativity. A study from the University of York and the University of Florida found more than 40% of our creative ideas come during breaks and downtime when our minds are free to wander. Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, a writer, academic and founder of a consultancy called Restful Company talks at length in his work about the power of “active” rest, which includes gentle exercise, playing, and engaging in hobbies. The parts of your brain that drive creativity are most active when you don’t have to focus, and moments of creativity take place when the mind is at rest rather than working. Anyone who has had a great idea while in the shower or walking the dog can confirm!
Human beings are not designed to function at a high level for sustained periods of time. Choosing to actively prioritise rest is both an act of resistance against grind culture and an act of self-care. As a freelancer or small business owner, you are uniquely placed to rewrite the harmful paradigms that keep us exhausted and uninspired and craft a new way of working that is holistic, sustainable, and centres your health and wellbeing.
Rest is a right, not a privilege. Think: what can you do to build rest into your schedule on a daily basis? Now, go do it – after that disco nap.