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Doing Nothing is Something: The Art of Taking One Day off A Week

A person sitting down with a book and coffee
Yesterday, I did nothing but go to church, read, watch a little TV, walk with my youngest son, and relax.

Yesterday was Sunday, which means it's the one day a week I don't work, think about work (that's a hard one), or stress over work.

But, it wasn't always this way for me, which is why I still feel a little restless - and guilty - when Sundays roll around.

I work from home. Everything I do is done from my home office. From writing to selling vintage online, my work surrounds me, every day. And while a huge chunk of America works from home these days, the difference is my work is self-created; these businesses are my own. I don't work for someone else. Which means I'm never not thinking about work. It's with me continually, even when I don't want to think about it.

For years, I would sort of pretend Sunday was my day off, but then I'd fire up the computer to fill an order or do some writing that I thought couldn't be put off. Those "small" Sunday events began to eat away at my love for my work; I didn't want to have to constantly be on call. Anger seeped into my heart. 

But guess what, that was all on me! I finally realized that for me to work seven days a week, I was draining my emotional and mental reserves - not to mention, my physical energy was sapped because my emotional and mental faculties were rebelling. I was a prisoner in my own mind and body and it was by my own doing.

Taking one day off a week isn't just an empty action; there's a reason behind it. It's for our health and sanity. The word Sabbath is one you might have heard of. Sabbath literally means rest and is deeply ingrained in the Jewish culture. Choosing to do this, to take one day off, is hard. The world will come against you; call for you; demand you're there and present for them.  But, as I found out, taking one day off a week was the best thing I could've done for myself. 

Here's why taking one day off a week to do nothing (which is very much something) may be the best thing for your mind, body, and soul.

A break from routine: Sunday in my home is chill. Sometimes, my two boys and husband have to work that day, but they usually find a day in the week to rest. For me, Sunday means I do what I love, like reading or resting, watching a movie, taking a walk, or sitting in the sun for some Vitamin D. This means no work. Sure, I think about it a little, but I don't sit down to write a post, I don't fill orders for my vintage shop, I don't do laundry (unless there's an emergency) and I don't cook dinner. While I cook all the time, this is a day off for me. Getting out of a routine does wonders for the mind. It feels freeing; I'm not shackled to my daily rituals.

Do More with Less: It sounds counterintuitive to work fewer days to get more done, but that's exactly what's happened. And it's probably because my mind and body get to rest. When I give myself a break it gives me the ability to be extremely productive the other six days. 

A few years ago, I was working four part-time jobs. I had my two jobs and added a social media marketing writing job as well as work as an editor/ writer for a local magazine. I worked these jobs all from home. It was convenient. But, it was a mistake. I was overworked, and couldn't give my best to any one job.  I was overstressed, burnout was a day away, and inevitably, something had to give. I put my vintage shop on the back burner and really missed it! There was no day off. At all.

So, I got rid of two jobs, am now focused on what I really love, and my stress load decreased significantly. Was it my choice to add the jobs? Yes. Did I have to? No. While I learned much from those two jobs (things I'm using in my writing today) doing less has made me far more productive. Not to mention, doing less means better quality work. Working six days a week - but giving yourself the seventh off - will increase your productivity as well as your love for your work. Win/win.

Busyness wreaks havoc: Living a more minimalistic life, in all areas, has shown me how much stress I put on myself. It also shows how much this busyness has to do with keeping up appearances. Of course, we need to work to make money to put a roof over our heads and food on the table. But, is that what most Americans are doing? Is that what I have done over the last few decades? I bought to keep up with the Joneses; I worked to buy the things I didn't need to look put together; I kept busy with work because that's what I'm supposed to do. I had kids in sports and school and life was chaotic and stressful. This busyness is the norm, but it shouldn't be. Anger and resentment at having to live this way was all I got out of that mess. Instead, I've opted out of working too much, opted out of too many commitments, lessened my purchases, and focused on paying down debt. Busyness wreaks havoc, but intentional time off is sweet to the body.

Peace comes with letting Go: Letting go is the name of the game here. Let go of feeling like I need to be productive; letting go of always having to stay on top of things: letting go of thinking I need to work every day just to make it. Of course, I will make it! Letting go is an act of faith, really. When we trust the process and allow ourselves to take one day to renew, peace is an overwhelming result of that action. Maya Angelou gives us an eloquent quote from one of her books that supports this. "Every person needs to take one day away. A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future. Jobs, family, employers, and friends can exist one day without any one of us... Each person deserves a day in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us." Agreed.

Living a minimalist lifestyle prioritized my goals and the way I want to live, and that includes minimizing my work. It's the essence of slow living: slowing down to truly live. Taking a single day per week is a way to not just put work to the side, but rejuvenate the mind, body, and soul. It takes us out of the tumultuous never-ending work cycle and gives us a reason to live a freeing life; a life fulfilled outside the routine, learning how to do more with less time, decreasing busyness, and drawing in peace.

My work will always be there. But, it's up to me to choose the way of rest. When I do, I see the difference in my physical health and emotions, and peace settles in everything I do. A day of rest is a day to contemplate our future, live in the present, ignore the past...  and live the lives we were called to live.


Books for further research on taking one day off a week: 

Subversive Sabbath by A. J. Swoboda

Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives by Wayne Muller

The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath by Mark Buchanan

Take the Day Off: Receiving God's Gift of Rest by Robert Morris and Max Lucado