How prioritizing rest and self-care increases productivity

BY Preta Peace Namasaba June 4, 2024 8:05 AM EDT

In 2021, Simone Biles withdrew from five event finals at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. She was experiencing the “twisties,” a mental block causing gymnasts to lose track of their body positions. The face of the Summer Games, Biles decided to forfeit more Olympic glory for the sake of her mental health and personal safety. She took a two-year break from gymnastics, returning to win two gold medals and a silver medal at the 2023 World Championships. She made history on Sunday by becoming the only gymnast to win nine U.S. all-around titles. Biles will continue her record-breaking run at the Paris 2024 Olympics next month.

Her story demonstrates how we can increase productivity by taking time for rest and self-care.

Prioritizing rest and self-care is important for athletes and everyone, including corporate executives, mid-level managers, business people, and entrepreneurs. American culture and the world are generally fast-paced and goal-oriented, often valuing productivity over rest and self-care. Many people are expected to work long hours, skip vacation days, and are seen as failures if they are not constantly working. However, embracing rest and self-care has been proven to improve workplace happiness and personal as well as professional success.

A study by research firm Gartner found a correlation between the number of hours an employee works and their performance with proactive rest increasing performance by over 25%. Decelerating and taking time to rest results in a more sustainable work lifestyle and mitigates symptoms of burnout like irritability, low motivation, exhaustion, and inability to focus. On the other hand, self-care which encompasses any deliberate action taken to support one’s mental, physical, and emotional health helps workers strike a work-life balance. Self-care practices range from solitary activities like taking a long bath, massages, and lone evening walks or social interactions like spending time with loved ones and engaging in group activities.

Fostering a culture of rest and self-care is essential to physical health and ultimately professional success. Regular exercise, restful sleep, and good nutrition have boosted physical health and energy levels. Rest allows bodies to repair and regenerate, increasing energy levels and productivity. Workers who take care of themselves are better equipped to handle the demands of their jobs, leading to better workplace performance.

Beyond the physical, taking the time out to prioritize rest and self-care is vital for better mental health. A self-care routine has been clinically proven to reduce or eliminate anxiety and depression, reduce stress, and minimize frustration and anger. It also improves concentration, energy, mood, and happiness. Rest and self-care help workers relieve the pressures of everyday life and reset to a healthy point where they can become more productive.

After effectively completing tasks and achieving desired results, workers need to rejuvenate. Rest and self-care allow workers to recharge and rejuvenate, leading to improved concentration, better problem-solving abilities, and increased productivity. Rejuvenation through rest and healthcare gives workers the energy and mental clarity to tackle daily tasks. It is important to strike the middle ground between rest and work as too much rest engenders complacency, while excessive productivity can lead to burnout.

In Black America, rest and self-care are an antithesis to the prevalent hustle/grind culture – the idea one must continuously prioritize work to achieve success. Many Black people work multiple jobs to survive and are in a constant uphill struggle to attain middle-class status. According to a Pew Research Center survey, fewer than half of Black adults say they have an emergency fund and some have taken multiple jobs to make ends meet. The grind might eventually pay off in the long run but it comes at the cost of one’s mental health and even physical well-being.

Amidst the demands of work, family responsibilities, and stress, finding time for rest and self-care can be challenging. Many Americans only get to rest during holidays or vacations fully. However, it’s possible to incorporate rest and self-care into daily life in small, cost-effective ways. Prioritizing time for yourself not only improves overall health and well-being but also enhances productivity in the workplace.