The digital age brings numerous benefits for the independent creative. It is easier than ever to communicate your message, build community, and find your audience. We have more tools at our disposal to build a platform than ever before. When compared to previous generations and the limitations they experienced, we’re quite fortunate.
However, any society in the midst of rapid growth is bound to experience growing pains, and those of us within the ever-evolving digital landscape are not immune to this reality. Certainly, it is beneficial to have so many ways to build our creative empires. However, it can be so easy to get caught up in learning and utilizing the tools of the trade that we often forget to shut them off. Couple that with the FOMO (that’s Fear Of Missing Out) and comparison culture that digital technology has ushered to the forefront, and it can be difficult to feel like we’re ever truly doing enough.
We must break past that notion and remember that we are not machines. We are not born to endlessly create content to please the algorithmic gods, nor are we designed to spend all of our waking hours working. Every so often, we must remind ourselves of our humanity, and embrace the increasingly elusive concept of rest.
Not only is rest a fundamental human need. Contrary to what 21st Century hustle culture will have you believe, rest has numerous creative and health benefits that empower us to show up as our best selves, professionally and personally. As a creative entrepreneur – and one who often must pull myself, kicking and screaming, away from my own work – I took the initiative to convince myself through research, and nail down the reasons why rest is a good thing for those of us on the grind.
P.S.: When you sign up for Muze, you’re connecting with more than just musical collaborators – you’re making new friends that can join you in some of the restful activities suggested in this article. Sign up today, and start making connections!
First of all, what is rest?
If you answered “sleep,” you are not entirely wrong. Sleep is certainly a form of physical rest – and one that is essential to our higher function as human beings. However, if you’re relying solely on sleep to get you back to a place of optimal functionality and creativity, you may be disappointed.
In a TED Talk delivered at TEDx Atlanta, physician and author Saundra Dalton-Smith, MD details the seven different types of rest human beings require in order to function at our highest levels. As it turns out, physical rest is just one of the categories – and even that one breaks off into sub-categories: passive (sleeping, napping, and related activities), and active (yoga, stretching, and massage therapy).
Dr. Dalton-Smith used her time on stage to detail seven – yes, seven – rest categories in all. She provides examples of each, and ways that these categories will sometimes intertwine. The categories are:
- Physical (Passive or active)
- Mental (Taking short breaks, journaling nagging thoughts)
- Sensory (Powering down your mobile devices and TV screens)
- Creative (Enjoying nature or the creative arts)
- Emotional (Communicating one’s feelings; eliminating people-pleasing)
- Social (Engaging in positive, supportive relationships)
- Spiritual (Prayer, meditation)
Watch the full TED Talk at this link.
Rest does not equate to laziness.
I begin this section with a personal anecdote: for the past couple of years, I have spent a good chunk of August not in Nashville, but in Bethlehem, PA working at Musikfest, the nation’s largest free, non-gated music festival. I oversee security on the festival’s north side, logging 14-hour days in the summer heat over the course of the 10-day festival, all while ensuring that overall ruckus is kept to a minimum. For some people, it sounds like a taxing way to take time away from the grind. For me, it feels like a vacation.
Don’t get me wrong – all that time on my feet, in unpredictable weather, and amongst unpredictable humans, presents its own set of challenges. However, all forms of exertion notwithstanding, one thing I notice at the end of the festival each year is that I leave feeling refreshed, rather than drained.
Do I have things backwards? Am I a glutton for punishment? Not so, according to one expert on this phenomenon.
Alex Soojung-Kim Pang is the author of Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less. In his book, Pang challenges our society’s penchant for overworking, by positioning rest as a restorative action taken to help us recharge our creative batteries, reframe our perspectives, and return to work refreshed in mind, body, and soul. In a 2016 interview with Scientific American, Pang expands on this notion by offering that even strenuous activities can be considered restful – if they provide our minds with a break from the norm.
“We tend to think of rest as putting your feet up and you’ve got the margarita and you’re binge-watching Orange is the New Black. For people in my study, their idea of rest was more vigorous than our idea of exercise. These are people who go on long walks covering 15 or 20 miles in a day or climb mountains on vacation. For them, restful activities were often vigorous and mentally engaging, but they experienced them as restorative, because they offered a complete break from their normal working lives.” -Alex Soojung-Kim Pang
Read the full interview here. And, if you want to take an even deeper dive into Pang’s work, Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less is available on Amazon.
So, what are the benefits?
Not only will periods of rest help clear your mind. There are numerous benefits to a person’s physical and mental well-being that come as a byproduct of guilt-free downtime. According to Forbes, they include:
- Physical healing and rejuvenation.
- Reduced stress.
- Boosted creativity.
- Boosted productivity.
- Better decision-making.
As creative entrepreneurs, our increasingly fast-paced world often implores us to pump out content, for the sake of staying top of mind and pleasing the algorithmic machine. While there’s value in the grind, we must also find time to defy modern hustle culture and take a step back. No matter how dedicated one is to their craft, an endless cycle of all-work, no-play leads us all toward the same inevitable burnout.
No human being can pour from an empty cup. Take time to fill yours, to ensure that you’ll have something to give in the long run. A brief pause will do much more than lead to better quality work. Simply put, it’s for your own good.