Health & Wellness
Rest to perform
Train harder. Be more active. Focus more. Set clear goals. Work harder. These are amongst the adages we have come to equate with personal, social and work performance. Indeed, no one will argue the wisdom behind such motivational and inspirational words. There are countless books and articles providing advice on how to “do more.” Our society continually comes up with innovative ways for us to be more productive.
By Isabelle Sauve
However, sometimes doing less is actually doing more. For example, physical overtraining can be more harmful than missing a workout session or two. Furthermore, rest and relaxation offer great benefits for our minds and bodies.
Rest management is an integral part of good health, proper recovery and rejuvenation. Planned rest should reflect and fit harmoniously with one’s lifestyle. As an illustration, someone training for a highly demanding physical endeavour will likely require more rest in light of the demands being placed on the mind and body. Elite athletes master the art of daily built-in rest periods to allow for multiple quality training sessions. This routine maximizes the body’s ability to recover and be ready to train again sooner. Research has proven muscles and cells — including blood, brain and other tissues — do repair more efficiently when the body and mind are at rest.
There are numerous health benefits associated with incorporating rest into one’s daily schedule. Unfortunately, there is no equation that fits everyone. Finding the right balance is essentially established by trial and error. Rest requirements also shift according to personal circumstances. Our society is not always aware — or understanding — of the importance of rest and its positive impact on productivity.
This is somewhat surprising since studies show regular rest periods in a workday boost alertness and productivity. Many European countries recognize the value of napping and many businesses shut down in the afternoon for the purpose of a quick power nap. It permits workers to recharge and get back to work feeling re-energized. Experts agree that a 10 to 20-minute nap is enough to refresh the mind. It essentially gives the brain and body a reboot.
A convincing study recommends a 17-minute resting/relaxation period follow every 52 minutes of work. This equation achieved highest employee productivity per day compared to other work-to-rest formulas. Additionally, subjects presented a reduced level of work related stress and fatigue. Another experiment established subjects were able to refocus and recharge by merely closing their eyes and relaxing for one minute every hour.
This knowledge begs whether or not rest should be made mandatory in the workplace. A rested body and mind promotes better decision making and appropriate situational decision making is at the heart of law enforcement work.
Law enforcement personnel are subject to erratic schedules, including night shifts and long working hours that affect the body’s internal clock. While it is possible to somewhat grow accustomed to these work conditions, it does not negate that it takes a toll. These professionals are also notoriously guilty of pushing themselves to an unhealthy level and denying their tiredness. Fatigue is cumulative if improperly managed and chronic fatigue can easily set in, even without one realizing it.
Rest should be performed in a quiet environment. Sitting in front of a TV or computer does not provide enough of a disconnect to truly “reset.” Allow yourself a break from technology. In fact, plan for unproductive downtime. It is healthy to sit and “just be.” Research shows disconnecting is vital to learning and memory retention.
In addition to taking daily resting periods, we can also benefit from breaks from our hobbies, sports and projects. The tennis champion Roger Federer recently illustrated this. He took six months away from competition only to return stronger, more focused, and win Wimbledon for the eighth time at the age of 36. He won this most recent Grand Slam tournament without losing a single set. It was a true attestation to the effectiveness of taking a calculated step back to refocus and re-energize the mind and body.
Stay tuned for upcoming columns, which will delve deeper into the topics of sleep, means of relaxation and recovery.
Isabelle Sauve is a 10-year OPP veteran currently with the Emergency Response Team (ERT) at the Almaguin Highlands Detachment in Burks Falls, about 300 km north of Toronto. She can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.