Get Stronger Through Rest
"You don't get stronger on your training days. You get stronger on your rest days."
I feel this adage holds true in many disciplines, especially the two that I'm most passionate about: designing and rock climbing. But make no mistake, resting can be the hardest thing to do. When you're passionate, driven, and experiencing adrenaline and success, stepping away seems like a setback. Add a looming deadline or an upcoming competition, factor in major stress, and rest can seem irresponsible. As creative professionals, we tend to engulf ourselves in our work, but we hamstring ourselves in debatably the most crucial part of the design process, stepping back and re-evaluating.
Mind and Body
When we're passionate about any activity, we engulf ourselves in what we enjoy. We seek to push ourselves to our limits. I push myself to the limit when I train for climbing, with the goal to get better and stronger.
More often than not, as we engulf ourselves in these activities, overtraining occurs. Training injuries are one of the most common injuries in sports, because, well – we get too psyched.
Pushing ourselves mentally is no different. Think of your creative muscles as another muscle group. We go through the same processes in training. We work within limits that our body sets for us, and develop training patterns. Like our physical muscles, our mental muscles need time to recover from the stress that we place on them.
Without integrating recovery time into our physical training, we get repetitive stress injuries. Without integrating that same recovery time into our creative training, we burn ourselves out.
The Benefits of Mental Rest
Mental rest isn't just about preventing injury. Giving ourselves time to recover mentally allows us to step back and be more intentional about the decisions we make on a daily basis. For design, that applies to being more intentional about decisions on layout, type, concepts, ideas, or plans.
I always try to remember that the world is my muse, and I limit myself when I limit my exposure to it. I can't grow creatively and mentally by just sitting in front of my computer at work and at home. I've got to try to step away and be inspired by my co-workers, friends, and family. I've got to take vacations and explore the world around me, get my hands dirty every once in a while. We must wonder, question everything and stay curious, that can't happen if we don't step away from our computers, make room for rest, recovery and reflection.
While you crank through your work, email, and meetings to meet deadlines, remember to break it up. Find solace throughout the day to pay attention to all the decisions and actions you have made and are going to make throughout your day. Revere the weekends; have fun. Make time to go out and enjoy other activities. Take vacations; travel and go places out of your comfort zone.
Don’t be fooled. Hard work is what defines our lives and what we do, but rest molds us and sustains us.