1. Rest from Labor Reduces Stress and Improves Short-Term Memory

It seems pretty obvious that taking time off of work reduces stress, especially if you consider your work to be stressful. But, it’s only successful if you can use your non-labor time to truly unplug from work and engage in other activities.

For workers and employers, the benefits are clear: A CDC report found that “health care expenditures are nearly 50% greater for workers who report high levels of stress (1).

What’s more, humans are generally more focused, have better short-term memory and improved memory formation when they are well-rested with sleep and awake-time breaks (2).

2. Breaks from Work Improve Performance and Motivation

Of course, being keenly focused on a task is a good thing. But, when this task takes a lot of mental energy and time, performance is actually improved with breaks.

One small study of 84 participants found that mental breaks improve performance compared to long-term mental focus (3).

Participants were divided into a control group and a “switch group.” Both groups performed a 50-minute task. The control group performed it without breaks or diversions. The “switch group” first memorized a four-digit code before the task, and then responded during the task if the digits were presented.

Interestingly, performance declined for those in the control group but remained steady for the switch group. The researchers concluded that taking a mental break and “switching thoughts” during tasks that require sustained attention actually renews performance and mental strength.

This somewhat flies in the face of recommendations to be completely mentally focused on a task for long periods of time. Instead, small mental breaks may help.

In addition, the researchers stated that motivation for the task itself can increase with mental breaks. They went on to “propose that deactivating and reactivating your goals allows you to stay focused…From a practical standpoint, our research suggests that, when faced with long tasks (such as studying before a final exam or doing your taxes), it is best to impose brief breaks on yourself. Brief mental breaks will actually help you stay focused on your task!”

3. Time Away Gives You a Chance to Be Active and Healthy

Especially if you are a worker who sits on the job, it’s imperative to take breaks during the workday and entire days off of work to increase movement and activity.

There are many health concerns aligned with sitting for consecutive hours. These include:

  • Declines in physical (cardiovascular) fitness, grip strength, and sit-and-reach flexibility (4)
  • Poorer quality of sleep (5)
  • Impaired self-perceived energy and vigor, mood, levels of fatigue, and food cravings (6)
  • Accelerated aging and increased mortality associated with chronic diseases (such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, kidney disease, and more) (7)

As work, you can use breaks to get up and move. On days off of work, get outside and be active if possible!

4. Rest from Labor Supports Immune Health

Again, this goes back to chronic stress and stress reduction. We know that chronic stress is associated with higher levels of inflammatory hormones ) and potentially maladaptive immune responses. To support immune health, reduce chronic stress and cortisol.

During work, take short breaks to deactivate stressful thoughts and reduce cortisol. On days that you rest from labor, get sleep, laugh, spend time with loved ones, engage in relationships, and proactively spend time doing activities you enjoy to reduce stress.

5. Rest from Work Supports Healthy Sleep Habits

It’s tough to get enough sleep if you’re working 16 hours a day. It’s tough to get enough sleep if you have trouble disengaging from work in general. It’s tough to get enough sleep in modern, busy lifestyles regardless.

It’s important to rest from work, relax mentally, and slow down your lifestyle. Avoid work-related habits like checking emails, mentally hashing out issues, and others sleep-disrupters before you go to bed.

Adequate sleep must be a priority for longterm health.

6. Rest from Labor Enhances Your Creativity

Humans were made as multi-faceted creatures. We are able to think analytically, creatively, and relationally. Giving your brain time away from work, to do anything creative, is healthy and invigorating.This doesn’t mean everyone needs to take up painting. Creativity can be found on a bicycle, sharing a story with a friend, spending time with a grandchild, and more. Our brains can be activated in different ways, and the more variety, the better!

7. Rest From Work Allows Designated Time with God

Don’t get me wrong, God is with us in every activity, at work, in the car, and at home. We are never apart. However, God set aside one day per week to rest from His own labor, and this gives us a pattern and routine to emulate. As we rest, we can do so in Him, and release our stress. He tells us:

  • “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day, he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” -Genesis 2:2-3
  • “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30
  • “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6-7

 And what does science say about prayer? It can improve health outcomes, mood, optimism, and stress levels (9).

Bottom Line

God has laid out a great plan! Let Labor Day remind you of the importance of rest from labor. Keep prioritizing your physical and mental health each day, week, and year.

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