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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Importance in Having a Day of Rest Each Week

I know that some people reading my post title might be balking at me right now. Some churches have very strict beliefs about what one can & cannot do on their Sabbath, and that can create a knee-jerk negative reaction to my suggestion for a chosen day of rest. But I promise that this is not a religious thing, in the sense that I feel compelled to do it or I might face a reprimand from God if I don't obey. And I don't want anyone else to feel that way or think that's where I'm coming from here. If you want to simplify your life, having a day of rest every week is a tool that helps create that simplicity. I realized a long time ago that having one day every week where I know I won't have to do a ton of work just feels better emotionally. I look forward to this restful day every week now. I don't believe that taking a day of rest should feel constricting or miserable- just the opposite. You should feel freed of backbreaking work & mental drudgery on this day. I recommend choosing to take a day of rest each week for everyone, regardless of your beliefs. This day of rest should feel wonderful, not something forced upon you. Obviously, I realize that parents of young children, those taking care of the elderly in their home, etc., don't technically get a complete day of rest each week. But below I'll list some ideas for keeping the day as minimalist & relaxing as possible, regardless of your situation.

Other than washing dishes, doing your bathroom swish-and-swipe, making your bed & other very basic daily chores, I highly recommend you don't do extensive housework or gardening on your day of rest. Unless it's really enjoyable to you, don't spend hours de-cluttering or organizing on your rest day, either. It's better to do a little bit over the other six days of the week than try to cram in hours of cleaning or de-cluttering on the seventh. This isn't out of dogma, but because your body & mind really do need a rest period each week like this. That day of rest leaves you feeling refreshed & strengthened for the next several days to come.

Sleeping in is a luxury some people like to indulge in & I don't disagree with doing it. Some people don't like to do this because it'll throw off their body's clock, make them go to bed too late the following night or make them oversleep the next morning, etc. It's up to you whether or not you want to sleep in & depends upon your lifestyle, as well. You may have church services or something else that makes sleeping in impossible. But I do suggest that you really try to get at least six hours of good, uninterrupted sleep this day.

Many people choose not to exercise or go to the gym on this day. I'm one of them. I find that after five days in a row of exercise (Monday-Friday), taking the weekend off is best for me. It allows my muscles, tendons, joints & brain to get a revitalizing break. When I worked full-time outside the home (I had a weekdays-only job), I cleaned house on Saturdays, so Sunday was a nice time to completely allow my body a break. What is known as "active rest", such as taking a walk, doing a gentle yoga practice or going swimming can keep your body moving while still allowing recovery.

I suggest that you make meals that only take a very short amount of time to prepare. It's entirely up to you, but one day off from standing for long periods of time in the kitchen & having to cook a big dinner is great to me. Eating green salads with lean protein, breakfast-for-dinner, leftovers, cold-cut sandwiches, pasta salad that was made the day before...there's lots of foods that can serve you well on these days for lunch & dinner. Some people love to go out to eat on their day of rest- if you can afford that easily & it's an enjoyable experience at the restaurant, this is a great idea. My great-grandparents always went for a drive & out to eat somewhere after church each Sunday. It gave Granny a day off from cooking & got them both out of the house to enjoy the West Virginia countryside each week. Granddad was a hard worker, but he definitely believed that Sunday should be a day free from heavy-duty yard work, housework & work for pay. He saw this as a blessing, not as a commandment meant to infringe on his freedom.

Shopping on your rest day is another personal choice that you'll have to make. Some religions essentially forbid this or spending money at all on this day unless it's an absolute emergency. With the Internet, shopping is actually quite relaxing for some people these days. I personally don't think shopping on Sunday is either good or bad, but I don't go out to the grocery store on this day, for example. Sundays are very busy days for grocery stores in my area & I'd rather avoid the crowds if I can. For myself, I just base my choices on whether or not they fit my goal of giving my body & brain a rest, and that's all. I don't forbid myself from spending money, shopping or going out to eat on my rest day.

This is my day of pampering or body care, to prepare myself for the upcoming week. I've written a blog on my weekly pampering routine before, so I won't repeat all of that here. Pampering is nice on this day because I'm not rushed, having chosen to make it a day of rest otherwise. Some women feel like this is just more work & won't want to include it on their rest day- do whatever works for you.

Some choose to make their rest day one of silence and/or they'll keep the electronics off- the radio, TV, Internet, etc. This is to help their brains wind down a bit more, meditate on their lives more deeply or keep their focus on the deity they believe in. Meditation, writing in a journal, taking nature walks, prayer, going to religious services or practicing yoga poses are popular rest day activities. A lot of people are drawn to this, while some do not like the time off. Not everyone wants hours to think or ponder quietly. There are those that take this time to go out & serve others in a soup kitchen or other community activity that gives back to the less-fortunate. I encourage you to do whatever refills your own cup and service to others may do just that for you. I recommend experimenting to see how much of a balance you need between solitude vs. service to others, and not just on your rest day. I believe that everything needs to be in balance. But certain people are very extroverted, finding time with others refreshing, while others feel just the opposite (that it's draining). And most of us don't feel introverted or extroverted all the time, but are a combination of both personality types. We need to respect both types of people & allow them their personal boundaries. Don't force others to accept your idea of or plans for a restful activity you love if it just doesn't work for them. Give everyone space & opportunity to find what replenishes their depleted resources week in & week out.

Prepping for the week ahead varies from person to person. I know those who lay out their clothes & shoes for the following week in order to be more prepared each morning when they go to work. This way they'll realize it in advance if they need more hosiery, have to get an item dry-cleaned or need to do a load of laundry in order to wear a certain outfit. Many bodybuilders or other fitness buffs spend their day preparing food for their clean eating regimen- including hard-boiled eggs, brown rice, grilled chicken breasts, broth-based soups from scratch, roasted vegetables, etc. They may fill up their reusable water bottles & pack their cooler with clean eats, as well, because they often have to wake up very early for daily training. I think anything you can do in advance which will make your mornings run more smoothly & quickly is always a good idea.

Elaine St. James wrote in her great book, "Simplify Your Life", to go to bed by 9 p.m. one night a week. If you work a traditional work schedule, the night preceding the start of your workweek is indeed a terrific choice for heading to bed early. Even if you don't try to go to sleep early that night (and I understand if this is the case- I'm a night owl through & through), you can simply choose to brush your teeth, wash your face, get into your nightclothes & read quietly in bed for the evening.

A nice activity to do on your rest day is plan for the week ahead in a proactive manner through writing. You can think about how you'd like your next week to go, write about what you'd like to see happen or spend time in visualization. You can use a calendar, day planner, journal or a whiteboard for this. The format really doesn't matter that much, just do what works for you. If you're at a place where you want to get a lot done in your life, I suggest doing an exercise that I call "The Seven Baby Steps". In this, you assign seven areas of your life that you want to regularly see improvement or meet goals in. For example, these areas can include spirituality, finances, health, household, education, family & friends. A spiritual goal may be to attend church that week. Finances? Put $20 into your savings account on payday. Health- take a multi-vitamin/mineral tablet every day the following week. And so on. This can be a terrific way towards meeting either short- or long-term goals. It's extremely useful if you're feeling stuck & stymied in your life. It's a positive way to focus your time & energy while meeting your own guidelines for success. I find that writing down these steps & then accomplishing them is a way to continually celebrate small victories day after day, week after week. To me, that is the ultimate goal- to live a life of celebration, where you're enjoying every day just as it is.   

Here's to being a relaxed organized minimalist,

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