How often do you schedule rest in your diary or agenda? This might sound strange but proactively making time for rest can work wonders because it forces you to take it seriously and ensure you do it.
This is not as easy as it sounds either – the demands of modern teaching, endless interruptions from technology – and even wellness trends themselves that require time, effort and energy – can all make the simple act of resting hard to achieve.
It’s important here to understand that by rest we don’t just mean sleep – it’s about activities you do while awake that make you restful by helping you unwind or reduce your stress levels.
For me, this is why it is important that rest is given a specific focus.
Wake up to rest
One thing I do is put time for rest into my timetables and diaries.
Specifically, before I go to bed, I write down the restful activity I will do in the morning and say it out aloud to myself. This has to be the first thing I do – and cementing it just before bed ensures I start the day right.
It might be as simple as saying “I will have tea on the balcony for 10 minutes before looking at my phone”. If you’re in a cold climate or do not have a balcony, this can simply be having a cup of tea while looking out of a window.
This sounds simple but it really works. A study completed in 1984, called View Through a Window may Influence Recovery from Surgery, found that some patients left hospital earlier if they had been in a room overlooking trees.
As such, making time for this kind of restful moment is highly recommended.
Resting at school
As well as resting in the morning, time in the school day to rest is also important. I schedule four mini rest breaks during the day – each just lasting a few minutes but having a massive positive impact.
The important thing is to get away from the workstation, desk and devices so that you actually do get a period of rest away from screens and work.
You could walk to your car, visit a colleague for a chat, make a cup of tea, slowly walk up a flight of stairs or do some stretches away from any devices in another room.
As teachers, it might seem like there is no time but studies show that micro breaks enhance workplace productivity so, essentially, taking mini breaks means that urgent tasks will get completed more efficiently.
To make sure I take these breaks, I set an alarm on my phone to remind me – this makes it easier to remember and usually forces me to stop what I am doing and rest.
Resting outside work
Outside of work, it is important to schedule 15 minutes to do your favourite restful activity, too.
This does not mean being sedentary – a common misconception.
Instead, you could allocate this time to listening to music, walking somewhere instead of driving, knitting, daydreaming, taking a bath or whatever else you enjoy. The key is to make sure it is proper time where you switch off and enjoy that activity.
One idea can be to breakdown each day to a rest theme: Monday can be physical rest, such as yoga; Tuesday can be emotional rest, such as a coaching session; and Wednesday can be spiritual or mental rest, such as taking a walk or volunteering.
Think about your resting
It is worth reflecting on your rest and starting to observe how much time you actually allow yourself to rest. Being more conscious of how you rest can be life-changing.
Simple things, such as when you feel tired, taking a few minutes to rest, can have a big impact. It may sound simple written down but we all know how easy it is to plough on, feeling there is something noble in ignoring our own body.
At other times, it is about seeing situations that give us unexpected time in a positive light – when in a long queue or traffic jam, for example, you could see it as relaxation time or a chance to daydream.
Sometimes, I try to focus on the senses and consider the things I can see, smell, touch and hear while waiting in queues or out on long walks. It may be observing surroundings while waiting on the bus.
Giving things up
Resting better could also mean giving up an activity that feels more like a chore, especially if you are always feel pressed for time.
For example, I gave up Zumba classes at the gym because, ultimately, they were not serving a purpose in my life anymore and felt less enjoyable as time went on.
It can be hard to do this sometimes, as we feel guilty that we are failing or being lazy or letting someone down, but you have to put yourself first when it comes to your wellbeing
Serve your inner pig-dog
A good – and memorable way – to visualise this is to learn that in Germany, the inner voice that encourages you to be lazy is called your innerer schweinehund, which literally means “inner pig-dog”.
Sometimes, this lazy hound who wants you to do nothing needs to be ignored but, sometimes, it’s OK to let your inner pig-dog take charge and to give yourself some real, active time to rest.
Orla Carlin is an English teacher working in the UAE