I recently read an article by Royale Scuderi that she titled, “Warning: You Have Entered the Burnout Zone.” Burnout is a fairly modern hazard that increases in frequency daily. Among the many signs and symptoms are concerns like fatigue, anxiety, loss of motivation, loss of interest, lack of satisfaction, and temper issues. In its extreme, there comes a sense of failure, dread, loss of physical and emotional strength, and even a total collapse. No doubt we all have our days, but when these feelings become chronic or permanent, something’s got to give. This burnout epidemic has become so pervasive that a whole pharmaceutical industry has been created to provide chemicals designed to fake out our minds, subdue our bodies, and try to hide these complaints, but there are health consequences.
What is the cause of burnout, and more importantly, what is the cure? What is your body and mind trying to tell you? Can you get that old zest and zeal back? How?
For thousands of years, most cultures have observed a rest day, a day to step away from the pressure cooker of their daily pursuits. In today’s world, that pressure cooker would likely be the factory, office, or cubicle as opposed to the farms, caravans, and mercantile life of history (though those certainly continue to exist in varying degrees too). Religions set apart a day, often called the Sabbath Day, that was sacred and inviolable. In ancient Israel, Sabbath breakers were stoned to death. Of course that isn’t a threat today, but there still is a real consequence brought on those who don’t honor a day of rest.
Those that break nature’s directive to rest are no longer stoned; instead they suffer other injuries like depression, exhaustion, feelings of failure, unhappiness, and health consequences. I believe that taking a day off each week is not a luxury, but a health imperative. It helps you to pace yourself and recharge your batteries. If you want to do your best at work or in your workout, it’s important to take time off from the grinder to reboot. It helps put order in your life and gives you something to look forward to.
During the time of the French Revolution they were practicing a ten day work week, where they worked nine days and then had one day off. Their brilliant leader, Napoleon Bonaparte, dropped it to a seven day week with six days of work and then Sunday off. It dramatically increased worker productivity and morale. And I had two tours of duty in the Vietnam War. Every two to three months we would get a week of R & R (rest and recuperation) to just chill and renew.
Today being labeled a workaholic or a workout-a-holic is viewed by many as a badge of courage, but we now know it is actually counterproductive and is in reality a form of addiction which indicates a loss of control. Parkinson’s Law states that “work expands to fill the time allotted.” So scheduling time off actually improves the efficiency of the time at work and you get more done.
It doesn’t matter what you call it—Sabbath Day, Day of Rest, Stop Day, or R & R—don’t do anything on that day that looks or feels like work or a workout. A break is as good as a vacation. So take a vacation each week. Go enjoy nature, read a good book, visit a friend, take a nap, attend church, enjoy your hobby, ride a bike, take a walk, or listen to soothing music. Make this break sacred to you. Jealously guard it. Even avoid the phone, internet, and computer if you can.
Have a break before you have a breakdown or burnout. Rest, Relax, Refresh, Recoup, Repair, Revitalize, Refocus, Rejuvenate, Relate, and you’ll Re-enjoy.