Updated: Oct 27
Growing up in our family meant having Sundays as our day of rest. While we weren’t a religious family, my father was strict about us switching off on the Sabbath day. We didn’t go to church on the seventh day of the week but we spent it together as a family.
Lazy mornings, late egg and bacon breakfasts, lunch-time braais, and crumpets for afternoon tea were the order of the Sabbath day in our family.
I remember reading in between meals, my parents’ catching up on the gossip in the Sunday newspapers, and the dogs snoring contently on someone’s bed in the house. Sundays meant no friends, homework, or doing housework. It was truly a day of rest.
But, are days of rest really essential? Do we need to step off the world for a moment and switch off? What are the benefits of having a day of rest included in your weekly routine?
What is a Day of Rest?
The Collins Dictionary defines a day of rest as “a day in the week on which, usually for religious reasons, people do not, or are not supposed to, work; the Sabbath or Sunday.” In religious terms, the day of rest was referred to as the Sabbath. Christians observed Sabbath as the Lord’s Day and are intended as a day of worship and rest.
While Christianity and other religions continue to observe a day of rest for religious purposes, many people have lost the essence of what the seventh-day rest could do for them. While it essentially needn’t include worshipping a god (if that’s not your scene), having a day of rest is vital if you want to avoid emotional exhaustion and burnout.
The Benefits of a Day of Rest in Your Weekly Routine
Early Christians must have known a thing or two when including the Sabbath day into their weekly routine! A day of rest can do wonders for you, mind, body, and soul. It’s the one day when you give yourself permission to take time off from all the pressures of everyday life.
While it doesn’t have to be strictly on a Sunday, taking a break from your weekly routine breaks the busyness that seems to take over your life.
Here are some benefits of having a day of rest every week.
1. Avoids Burnout
Our society has become too finely tuned in to working seven days a week. And, when you’re not working, you’re shopping, partying, or frantically cleaning the house. While all of these elements of your life are essential to keep the wheels oiled and give your life meaning, too much of a “good thing” can result in exhaustion.
A day of rest allows you to take a break from all the “shoulds” and lets you wind down, switching off from the daily pressures of being a human in a frantic world that never seems to stop spinning. When you’re on a perpetual spinning bicycle of “I should be doing that” and “I should be doing this”, the result is often emotional exhaustion or burnout.
Watch this video to find out if you're experiencing burnout.
2. Improves Mental Health
When you feel like your life is turning into a hamster wheel that never seems to stop spinning, your mind is also working constantly all the time. You’re thinking about the next task while still finishing the one you’re working on. You’re planning what time to see your friends at the end of the day while thinking about how you’re going to get your latest project finished on time.
Like your physical body, your mind also needs to rest. Too much thinking, solving problems, and worrying about what needs to be done in the next moment will lead to mental burnout. This often results in depression and anxiety. By having a day of rest, you’re giving your mind a chance to declutter and to have a break from constant overthinking.
3. Allows for Self-Care
A day of rest is the ideal day for bringing in some self-care practices. This is the day when you can show yourself some loving kindness while rejuvenating mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Self-care is vital for an overall sense of well-being and allowing yourself to take a break from daily life means you’re giving your body the timeout it needs to recover. Self-care allows you to manage your stress levels better while giving you what you really need to live life optimally.
4. Brings Back Focus
A busy life distracts you from so much including your own life path. If you’re not careful you may wake up one day and wonder where you’re heading! Being on a constant treadmill of activities often acts as a distraction and before you know it, your life has lost its sense of direction.
A day of rest allows you to remove the distractions of everyday life and to re-gather your focus so that you stay on a path of purpose and meaning. It’s a time of reflecting on your week’s activities and being honest about what is working and what isn’t working for you, in your best interest.
5. Encourages Playfulness
Too often, a life of busyness doesn’t include playfulness. Instead, you’re merely functioning to get through the day’s work, caring for the family, keeping the house in some kind of order, and taking care of others. All this chases away any time for fun and relaxation.
A healthy person needs good doses of playfulness, where you can laugh, connect with your creative hobby, or spend a morning in the local doggie park with your four-legged friend. Playfulness releases pent-up emotions and allows your body to relax fully.
6. Keeps Motivation Levels Up
Pushing yourself every day of the week requires constantly motivating yourself to keep going. It’s hard work, to find the motivation to do everything that needs to be done. But, if you can give yourself a day off to reflect on what needs to be done in the week ahead, you can recharge your motivation battery once more.
By switching off, you’re giving your energy levels are chance to replete themselves. In return, you’ll wake up the day afterward motivated to take on the week’s tasks once more. A day of not feeling you “have” to do something (or everything) gives you the oomph you need to be creative again once Monday morning arrives.
7 Tips for Meaningful Days of Rest
Now that you know all the benefits of having a day of rest in your weekly routine, how do you go about implementing them? Unfortunately, for many of us, the thought of a day of rest actually means a day of stress! And, this is because we don’t know how to make this one day of timeout meaningful.
Here are some ways I ensure my day of rest is meaningful so I can restore my mind, body, and soul for the week ahead.
1. Identify What Relaxes You
Forcing yourself to switch off by meditating because that works for your best friend but drives you bonkers instead is not a good idea. Everyone has different means of relaxing and while meditation may work for me, it doesn’t mean it works for others. Identify what truly relaxes you. It could be cooking a meal, weeding in the garden, or reading a book all day.
The key to identifying what relaxes you is asking yourself, ‘Does this feel like work?” If it does, avoid it at all costs on your day of rest. Only you know, deep down, what your soul needs to rejuvenate it and this is not the time for trying to keep up with the Joneses. So, pick your day of rest activities (or non-activities) mindfully and wisely.
2. Switch Off Social Media
Scrolling through Facebook constantly or picking up your phone every two minutes to see if there’s a text message is exhausting work. There’s such a thing as social media burnout and taking a complete break once a week will help prevent this from happening to you.
Switching off all access to social media brings you back to the present. It gives your mind and your emotions a break from all the negativity (and positivity) that goes on through social media engagement.
3. Connect or Enjoy Alone Time
The beauty of a day of rest is choosing whether you want to connect with those you love or if you simply want to spend the day alone, doing your own thing. There’s nothing more liberating than having a day to decide what YOU want to do.
A day of rest can be the perfect time for nurturing those special relationships and having peaceful, meaningful conversations.
But, having a day alone gives you the space you need to do absolutely nothing or to tackle that painting you’ve been meaning to do for ages. Remember that whatever you choose to do alone must be soul-restoring and not a “should or have to do” exercise.
4. Get Into Nature
Getting into nature allows you to connect with all your senses and wind down. Plan to spend your day off by going for a stroll in the local park, gardening, or visiting a nature reserve. Spend the day forest-bathing if you’re fortunate to live near a woodland full of trees. This practice is known to benefit you both psychologically and physiologically.
Weeding, planting seedlings, or raking up leaves is a wonderful way of burning up calories while improving your mental health. Sitting and watching the waves crash onto the sandy beach is another good way of getting into nature on your day of rest.
5. Time for Reflection
Busyness often prevents us from having the time to be mindful and to reflect on ourselves. If you find this is your problem, consider using your day of rest as a time for reflection. I love to catch up with my journaling on my day of rest. I also do a full spread of tarot cards if I feel I need some support going into the week ahead. And, often my day of rest includes a longer meditation.
Reflection could result in doing a smudging ritual to cleanse stagnant energies both in your body and in your home. But, it could also mean just sitting quietly and pondering life, reviewing where you are and where you’re going.
6. Acts of Self-Care
Your day of rest may be the only day when you can truly perform acts of self-care. Identify what these could be and make sure you include them on your days off from life. Acts of self-care could include any of the abovementioned as well as some of these:
A day at the spa
Going for a hike
Having an acupuncture session
Listening to music while doing nothing
Lie on the grass
Spend the day in a hammock outdoors
Do something you used to love doing as a child
Self-care keeps you connected with your SELF and reminds you that you are important. Acts of self-care allow you to restore your balance and be ready for the week ahead.
7. Be Responsible for Days of Rest
You need to take responsibility for your day of rest. This means actively choosing a day where you give yourself permission to do nothing. It also means taking responsibility for doing what YOU want to do. It’s about knowing what restores your mind, body, and soul best without letting the guilt feelings creep in.
When you’re responsible for your day of rest, you can look forward to resting and bringing balance back to your overall sense of well-being. And, knowing you can take a break from the busyness of your life means you know how to avoid the catastrophic results of too much stress.
When you’re serious about taking a day of rest, you’re giving your mind and body the break it needs from the stressors of everyday life. You’re also giving yourself the time to catch a breath and reflect on your journey through life.
A day of rest will keep you focused on what is meaningful for you and change what isn’t working for you. Make the most of your Sabbath day and spend it wisely. After all, there’s only ONE of you and you can only shine your light when your mind, body, and soul are all in sync and balanced.
This post was originally published on September 5th. 2021, and updated on October 26th. 2022.