After a tough year in difficult circumstances, it is finally time for students and teachers alike to get some well-deserved rest during the summer break. However, all too often we go through the summer without finding the respite we so urgently need to return full of energy and passion after the break. In this blog post, we will summarize the insights we gained from psychologist Vassia Sarantopoulou on the subject of rest during the IB end of year event. In her speech, Vassia discussed why resting is so important for us, why we tend to neglect it, and how we can make the summer break as restorative as possible.
Whether it is not enough sleep, a poor diet, sitting too much, or all the responsibilities, decisions, and questions that we constantly have to think about, there are many reasons why we feel physically and mentally tired. The pandemic has added to the mental load we bear as well and made it even more important for us to find time off to take care ourselves. That is why we should take the summer break to prioritize rest.
Our body and mind will notice if we don’t take the necessary time to rest. It becomes more difficult to concentrate, we forget too easily, become more accident prone, and our tasks seem to become harder than they should be. It is tough to perform at your best if you are tired. Additionally, we tend to get irritated more easily, become negative and grumpy, and start to lose the passion we had for our work or study. Our mental state is reflected by our body as the constant stress and tiredness leads to health issues such as an upset stomach, an increased heart rate, and a weakened immune system.
It becomes clear that rest should be an essential part of self-care, but for many reasons we still tend to neglect taking time off. The most common one is that we don’t have the time to rest. In other cases, we don’t even notice that we need a break as we continue to ignore the signals and keep on working. All too common is also the feeling of guilt or shame that we attach to resting when we imagine what else we could be doing with our time or how much more productive we could be. As we get stuck in a constant cycle of tiredness, worry, and stress, many also forget or never learned how to rest when we finally have the opportunity.
The notion that resting is about being lazy or avoiding work is not only harmful to our health, but it also neglects that rest is necessary to be able to perform at our best. Paradoxically, the benefits of taking breaks and resting are that we become more productive, more creative in finding solutions, and have more energy to devote to our work and loved ones. Therefore, rest should not be seen as a waste of time or a sign of weakness when instead it is crucial for us to be at our strongest and happiest.
When it comes to how to rest, the first thing that we should remind ourselves off is that it is fine to take time off as it helps us to be more productive and more creative. We need to give ourselves the permission to get the rest we need and deserve. Secondly, it is important to understand that there are different types of rest and that we need have a balance in our lives.
According to Daniel Siegel (2020), there are seven essential activities that we need to have in balance to optimize our well-being and performance. These are: (1) Focus Time, when we concentrate on a task, (2) Play Time, when we are spontaneous or creative, (3) Connecting Time, when we connect with other people, (4) Physical Time, when we move our body or exercise, (5) Time In, when we reflect internally on ourselves, (6) Down Time, when we are not focused on a specific goal but simply relax, and (7) Sleep Time, when we give our brain the time settle down and recover. To perform our best, we need to find a balance between those activities.
For each of these activities there is also a corresponding form of rest: (1) Mental Rest, when we take breaks from work or focus on mindfulness, (2) Creative Rest, when we surround ourselves with pleasing images that allow us to rest, (3) Social Rest, when we connect with people who give us energy or take time to be alone and recharge, (4) Physical Rest, which can be passive (sleeping) or active (yoga), (5) Spiritual Rest, when you take time off to center yourself and reflect, (6) Emotional Rest, where you take a break from all emotional work, and (7) Sensory Rest, where you unplug yourself from all electronics and rest in a calm place away from too much stimulation.
As we need to have a balance to the activities we require to perform at our best, we also need to balance the type of rest we get. After you have established that you deserve and need time off, you should ask yourself how you have been feeling lately and what has been occupying your mind. This will give you hints as to what type of rest you need to take during the summer break to come back full of energy and passion. At some point or another, you should try to get every type of rest, but if you have constantly been studying with the goal of passing an exam, it might be time for some mental rest.
We sincerely hope you will all take the time over the summer to get some well-deserved rest. It will help the IB community come back stronger, healthier and ready to take on all the challenges that the next academic year will bring along.
Siegel, D. (2020). The Healthy Mind Platter. Viitattu, 17, 2020. (https://www.psychotherapynetworker.org/magazine/article/2454/the-healthy-mind-platter/40ed7595-7644-42cc-9735-1703fa558686/OIM)