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The art of relaxation (and why we have lost it)

The art of relaxation (and why we have lost it)

By Kath Walters

Somewhere along the journey to the fast-paced world we now live in, we started to associate using time wisely with just being busy.

However, researchers are starting to discover that all work and no play is worse for “Jack” than making him “a dull boy” (as the old saying goes); it makes Jack despressed, forgetful and prone to getting ill!

According to research at the University of Washington: “Rest is an important part of a healthy lifestyle for all ages. It rejuvenates your body and mind, regulates your mood, and is linked to learning and memory function. On the other hand, not getting enough rest can negatively affect your mood, immune system, memory, and stress level.”

How is busy is too busy?

Tom Hodgkinson is an expert in frittering away time.  As the author of the best-selling book, How to be Idle, Hodgkinson is convinced we have lost sight of the rationale for resting.

While some might not need to be persuaded, the workaholics among us will be relieved to find that Hodgkinson believes we will work better if we rest, writing: “A conclusion I’ve come to at The Idler [online magazine] is that it starts with retreating from work but it’s really about making work into something that isn’t drudgery and slavery, and then work and life can become one thing.” 

The reality is that when we work too much, it shows. Here are some of the symtoms to watch for, according to business journalist Jeff Haden.

  1. Your resting heart rate is higher than average.
  2. You’re overweight.
  3. You feel irritable and short-tempered.
  4. You can’t seem to get your work done as well as you used to.

Or simply try this visualisation and see if it seems like your own workday:You are facing a Mt Everest of meetings, an ocean of emails, and deadline pile-up that has you working round the clock. Your eyes are locked on your computer screen and it seems like months since you’ve walked in the park, had a meal somewhere other than your desk, or spent the morning in bed.

If I stop, I’ll never start again

For the overworked, sometimes the thought of stopping becomes frightening, says addiction specialist Stephanie Brown, author of Speed: A Cultural Addiction to a Fast Pace of Life. “The idea that we literally have at our fingertips all the tools to do so much more than we actually have the capacity to do as human beings has created a bind that leads to chronic stress and a sense of failure,” she writes.

In her book, Brown argues that the fast-paced life new kind of addiction has taken hold in our culture. Brown writes: “The bad news is that is pervasive, cheap and not yet widely accepted as a serious problem. The good news is that it is treatable, and everything we have learned about other addictions applies here.”

Recovering the art of relaxation: First steps

Getting better at relaxing doesn’t mean you have to stop working completely. Nor does veering away from overwork indicate any lack of enthusiasm. It is simply a break from the toxin working habits that surround us all. After all, it doesn’t make sense to allow your passion for your job to dominate the essential aspects of self that allow you to work efficiently — your mind and your body. What is the point of stretching yourself too thin, only to find out that you’re not delivering quality work?

1. Take rest seriously

There is plenty of research on the impact of stress on our physical and emotional well-being. It creates a persuasive case in favour of learning to take breaks and holidays as well as reducing the amount of work you expect to achieve in a day. When you are tempted to burn the midnight oil, re-read some of this research.

2. Write your own rest prescription

Rest is a very personal matter. For some, rest will mean sleep or lying down, but for others it will mean chatting with friends, phoning the family, drawing, cooking, gardening, yoga, watching DVDs, or even taking a course.

 3. Add some completely idle time

Along with restful pursuits, Hodgkinson argues that we must find time to simply be idle, to dream, doodle, sleep in, nap, drink tea, have sex, meditate and go on holiday.

Sounds good, doesn’t it?



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