You know the importance of getting enough sleep. But did you know that getting enough rest and relaxation while awake is equally important to health? We’ve all had those days when we’ve clocked in our 8 hours of shut-eye, but still drag through the day feeling exhausted. That’s because we aren’t balancing work with rest, rejuvenation, and play.

These days it’s go, go, and go some more. We work long hours, grab meals where and when we can get them, and spend every extra second on our digital devices. Studies show that 67% of people check their digital devices even when they don’t receive an alert! And 44% of us sleep with our phones right by our beds. Such overstimulation stresses us out, even if we don’t “feel” the stress. And the health ramifications are numerous.

The Precarious Balance Between Stress and Relaxation

Stress isn’t a bad thing. It’s good to experience the occasional bout of stress. Your body appreciates the rush of adrenaline coursing through your system, such as when you engage in a high-intensity workout. Stress becomes problematic when it’s chronic and continuous, a state of being that’s more common than not in this hectic modern world, especially in siesta-free America. It’s imperative that we balance our go-getter tendencies with relaxation and rest. Relaxation helps to alleviate chronic stress, thereby lowering your likelihood of…

  • Catching a cold
  • Having a stroke
  • Succumbing to depression
  • Gaining weight

Taking adequate time for rest also helps boost your memory, enhance decision-making and problem solving, and inspire creativity.

Stopping the Stress Cycle

Speaking with, stress researcher and Carnegie Mellon psychology professor Dr. Matthew Sleeth explains, “For almost 2,000 years, Western culture stopped—primarily on Sunday—for about 24 hours. Even when I was a child, you couldn’t buy gasoline, you couldn’t buy milk. The drugstores weren’t open. The only thing that was open was a hospital. Even in dairy farming country, we would milk cows, but we wouldn’t bring in hay. And so society just had a day where they put it in park. (That) was Sunday… until the last 30 years or so.”

Dr. Sleeth, author of the book 24/6: A Prescription for a Healthier, Happier Life, advocates taking one day off a week, a “stop day” if you will.

Taking one day off a week for simple rest and rejuvenation should be a mandatory part of your health regimen. But one day won’t do the trick when it comes to putting a stop to the stress cycle. It’s important to take time each day to rest, and that rest should vary between passive rest and active rest.

Two Types of Rest Everyone Should Be Getting

Passive rest shifts your system into parasympathetic mode, giving your body the opportunity to heal, to improve digestion, and to promote feelings of well-being. We all need time to unwind after a long day…to quietly rest and relax. Engage in passive rest according to your preference. Unwinding may come in the form of taking a walk, meditating, reading a book, soaking in a bath, cuddling with your significant other…any “passive” activity that has a calming effect on your body and mind. Watching television typically doesn’t help the mind process stress, so choose a more silent activity.

But if the only forms of rest we allowed ourselves were sleep and passive rest, we’d get pretty drained pretty quickly. Passive rest is complemented by periods of active rest, in which you gift yourself some fun and play. Perhaps you rejuvenate with a morning run, a swim in the sea, or a hike through the mountains. Maybe your active rest includes a game of Frisbee with your dog. Play shouldn’t be viewed as self-indulgent, but as an essential component of self-care. So, rest up!