How To Dramatically Improve The Quality Of Your Rest

A guide for self-employed, entrepreneurs and anyone who finds it hard to rest.

Marta Brzosko
Apr 2 · 12 min read

“The greatest geniuses sometimes accomplish more when they work less.” — Leonardo da Vinci

Rest is a skill that most of us must learn

By now, we all know how important it is to take time off. We are aware that for good performance and well-being, getting sufficient rest is as important as a healthy diet, exercise and sleep. Yet, the number of people suffering from burnout and chronic stress is on the rise. How is this even possible?

Burnout — Feeling of physical and emotional exhaustion, due to stress from working with people under difficult or demanding conditions. Burnout is followed by signs such as chronic fatigue, quickness to anger and suspicion, and susceptibility to colds, headaches, and fevers — BusinessDictionary

According to a recent Gallup study, “23% of employees reported feeling burned out at work very often or always, while an additional 44% reported feeling burned out sometimes. That means about two-thirds of full-time workers experience burnout on the job.”

Why do we have trouble resting?

I realized that the secret to getting the rest I need as a freelance writer is in the mindset I adopt, rather than in simply “carving out free time.” It is not merely a matter of having the time to rest — but the question of how I experience this time.

The three main components of a resting mindset

1. The psychological detachment from work.

Sabine Sonnentag who coined this term refers to psychological detachment from work as “a state in which people mentally disconnect from work and do not think about job-related issues when they are away from their job.” It is exactly what we talk about when we mention “taking our minds off work.”

2. Letting go of the “achievement” mode.

This requires a mindset shift that most of us are not used to making. From a very early age, we are taught that whatever we engage in, it should serve some bigger purpose. This goal-oriented mentality is precisely what we need to drop to enter a state of genuine rest.

3. Enjoying yourself.

This may seem so obvious that it’s not even worth mentioning. But I think there is a little trap here.

How to dramatically improve the quality of your rest

It often happens to me that I enter an illusion of rest — but actually, I miss one of the crucial components of the resting mindset.

Define work and non-work activities.

This is often tricky for freelancers, entrepreneurs and creatives. I know it is for me. Our work is usually so intertwined with our lives that it may be hard to determine whether you are reading a book or watching a video for pure pleasure — or because you are hoping that it will somehow benefit your work.

Consider the timing.

It is not necessarily about planning a strict “resting schedule.” I am a big fan of going with the flow and resting whenever I find it necessary/useful. Having said this, I think it is helpful to take your lifestyle into consideration — and to know at what point of your day or week you may get a chance to rest.

Grant yourself unconditional permission to rest.

This requires some inner work and positive self-talk. You may also reach out for external psychological or coaching support if you really struggle here.

Choose your rest activities in advance.

I found it quite useful to have a go-to list of ideas for how to spend my rest time. With this, whenever I find myself in need of a break, I have a selection of activities to choose from.

Make a transition from working to resting mode.

This one is useful to help you to psychologically detach from your work. All too often, we try to jump from one activity to the next, without ever consciously noticing the change. As a result, we often drag the mindset from work into what was supposed to be our downtime.

Let go of the “achievement mode.”

That’s by far the most difficult one for me. I have the deeply ingrained idea that whatever I do in my rest time should also benefit other areas of my life. And that’s exactly what sometimes forces me to read a book — instead of taking the much-needed nap.

Be mindful.

I wouldn’t be myself if I didn’t mention mindfulness in the context of rest! But I don’t want to talk about meditation or “heightened awareness.” In this case, it is about the more practical dimension of everyday mindfulness.

“All you need to do is actively notice new things.”

How does that contribute to the quality of your rest? By being more mindful to the variations in your experience, you simply start making better choices as to how you spend your time.

Marta Brzosko

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I write for those who want to know themselves better. Join my newsletter here:

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