Day of Rest: One Year Later

“Hey, let’s take a whole day every week doing No Work At All!”

How does that make you feel? Nervous because you have too much to do? Excited at the idea of getting some rest?

I made this suggestion to the Man of the House a little over a year ago. I did it primarily for myself. I’d been noticing that my fear of Not Getting Enough Done combined with being stuck in the house due to the pandemic was getting to me. I was majorly focused on Being Productive every waking minute. Or, if not Productive, Guilty About Being Lazy.

However, my husband joined in with great enthusiasm. He had transitioned to working from home mostly, and the boundaries between work and home life were starting to decay for him as well.

I like to plan out the next day the night before, and planning is Work. So, we decided that our Day of Rest would start the night before – right after we fed our cats their gooshy food at five on Saturday evening. Day of Rest would last until the next day at Gooshy Food time, after which I’d sit down with my Bullet Journal and plan the following week.

What’s work?

Cooking, cleaning, household paperwork, day jobs, and projects we’re being paid for or are trying to be paid for are all work.

I had waffled on sewing or knitting being okay. If that was the only way we got clothes, I’d put it on the “work” list. Still, since they’re creative hobbies, even though they ultimately get me an object, since I don’t do it for money and can buy clothes if I want to with no problem, it’s not on the work list for me. Making treats is more hobby cooking for me than how I get a treat, so I also allow that – if the Spirit moves me.

The idea is that we’re trying hard for 24 hours not to focus on Being Productive.

How do we do a day of rest?

Saturdays are a little busy but not overwhelming. We clean the place as much as we feel like – in practice, we spend about an hour on this. We fill the fridge with easily reheated food and nibbles that are good cold. We decide on a good movie to watch or queue up books we’d like to read… Maybe download some video games.

After five on Saturday, we’re off the hook. We don’t cook or clean (well, unless someone is barfing. Illnesses and emergencies do happen). We don’t work for pay. We focus on hobbies and things that are fun. We don’t work out. Our walks must be leisurely.

This is a day to see friends (or will be as the pandemic is less of a thing), to take fun day trips if we feel like it. Last summer saw us taking a few visits to a local beach at a small lake on our Day of Rest to celebrate a whole day of not working.

Obviously, if we’re still doing this a year into it, we find value in it.

So, what’s so great about a whole day of rest?

Getting in one’s 42% of rest time is probably the most important.

“So how much rest is “adequate”?

Science says: 42 percent.

That’s the percentage of time your body and brain need you to spend resting. It’s about ten hours out of every twenty-four. It doesn’t have to be every day; it can average out over a week or a month or more. But yeah. That much.

“That’s ridiculous! I don’t have that kind of time!” you might protest—and we remind you that we predicted you might feel that way, back at the start of the chapter.

We’re not saying you should take 42 percent of your time to rest; we’re saying if you don’t take the 42 percent, the 42 percent will take you. It will grab you by the face, shove you to the ground, put its foot on your chest, and declare itself the victor.”

― Emily Nagoski, Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle

It seems like an enormous amount of time, but it isn’t. Part of that time is meant for sleep. If you sleep eight hours a night, you really only need to find another fourteen and a half hours in your week for rest. So, call it two hours a day and change. That’s still well within the average person’s TV watching habits. Enjoying your favorite show is certainly resting.

If that’s so, why take a whole day instead? (It measures out to roughly the same amount of time…) I mean, anyone who observes Shabbat with any level of strictness knows quite well that prepping the household for that day involves a busy day before!

Taking a whole day of rest reduces stress

Let’s run with some numbers…

I wear a fitness watch that measures stress. While I cannot know exactly how accurate it is, I will note that my average stress score (on a scale from 1 to 100) is 39-40 ordinarily.

That average is 27 on Sundays.

If you argue that you can’t plot a curve from one data point, I’d agree with you. I’d also bet at least a nickel that if we did a study, we’d find some similar results across the board.

There is a joy in waking up knowing you’re off the hook for work. Waking up knowing I can binge-read a whole novel if I feel like it because I have no responsibilities on this day is pretty awesome.

So, what if I don’t get everything “done” by Saturday at five?

Guess what, chuckles? If it doesn’t involve blood or fire, it can sit until after five on Sunday, that’s what!

While I don’t habitually leave laundry to wrinkle in the dryer over a Sunday, I’ve done it a few times in the past year. If I have an idea about something that really oughta get done and I don’t want to forget about it? Well, hellfire, that’s what a Bullet Journal is for! Write it down and forget about it until after five.

That being said, am I good at forgetting about stuff that I don’t need to be dealing with in the moment?

I am not. I am very bad at it, indeed! I will get an idea, chew on it, and herd it around with all the enthusiasm and intent of purpose as a Border Collie.

However, for me, Day of Rest is an excellent way to practice dropping that bone. A day of rest is rather like a day-long mindfulness meditation as a way to stay in the moment.

Have we ever worked on a Day of Rest?

Yes, four times. Three of those times were in the weeks leading up to a major downsize and move and the Sunday after a Thursday move. One of those times was a Sunday after a Saturday to Saturday vacation at the beach. For my own part, if I can’t get good and rested at the beach, something is going quite wrong.

The longer we do this, the more important I find it.

That’s great for people who have the time like you! I certainly don’t!

“If you don’t have time to meditate for half an hour, you’d better meditate for an hour.”

You’ll see several versions of this all over the Internet. It makes a valid point no matter how you slice it. You need a break and a reset badly.

If you don’t get your R&R, you’re slower. You’re less effective. You’re almost certainly working stupid.

I’m not arguing against big goals here. Big goals are dandy. If you do not get your rest and your reset, it is tough to think clearly about your goals. You will be slower to accomplish them.

If you can’t commit to a day of rest, still schedule deliberate time in your calendar to rest in a smaller chunk. Don’t say, “I’m too tired to do anything but watch TV.” Say, “I’m going to spend the next two hours watching my favorite show because it is relaxing and restorative.” At least try that. It gets you into a more deliberate mindset and gets you thinking about how you want to spend the limited moments of your life—

On Purpose.