Focus on Leadership: Rest

In our leadership posts over the last year we’ve talked about the importance of Sabbath, taking care of yourself, and taking care of others – paying attention to the things causing stress and anxiety, and taking a breath before diving in. Implicit among these thoughts is the idea of getting the proper amount of rest, but we wanted to take some time to talk about sufficient rest more specifically.

In North America, summers mean longer days of natural light and often drastically different schedules, even for those who work full time year round. Vacations, social events, vacation Bible school, camps and retreats – all of these can add both opportunities for increased rest and opportunities to upturn your routine, so it’s a great time of year to talk about proper rest.

Americans in the United States are simply not getting enough sleep. And when we are awake, we often do not take enough time to just rest – we don’t take enough breaks, vacation time or regular days off. Too many of us feel that if we are not being “productive” we are wasting time.

But if we do not get enough down time, rest time and sleep, our productivity is often for naught. We are less productive, less effective and less creative. Our brains and our whole bodies need time away from productivity. Sleeping for 7-8 hours a night (for adults – school age children and teens need 9-10 hours of sleep per day) helps our bodies slow down and do important healing work necessary for good health.

Taking time away from the tasks in front of us allows us time to let our minds wander. Though it may seem unproductive, our brains tend to continue to work on problems and tasks, making connections we may not make when we are intentionally trying to seek solutions.

God created us in God’s image. Even God rested after creation was complete, and we cannot be whole creations without that rest.

As we take care of ourselves, as we care and support others, as we seek to keep Sabbath as holy, set-apart time, ask yourself, am I getting enough rest? Are my friends, family, pastors, leaders, colleagues, getting enough rest? How can we help each other lessen our anxieties about productivity and take the time we need to sleep, to daydream, to not spend every waking moment being busy?

Without rest we cannot be whole people, we cannot use our full energy and creativity, and we will spend all our time in the now, without a true connection to or hope for our past and our future.