Let’s take some R&R

I’ve talked a lot about how work is a primary, though not the ultimate, means of fulfilling our calling to be productive and constructive. But our lives can’t be all about work. It is good to take breaks. It’s good to take breaks more often than I think many of us do.

The concept of rest seems to be quite muddled these days. People either work themselves to death and never take a break, thus depriving themselves of living life, or they live only for the weekend. I believe in planning your rest. Most people don’t realize that when you’re tired it’s not so much that you’re actually exhausted, although that does happen, but just that you’ve spent too much time on one thing. You’ve worked too much, had too many chores, been too stressed, or whatever. But what you really need is a change—an outlet.

Why do people dream of vacations where they can go to exotic locales and do things they’ve never tried before? Why not dream of sitting in front of your TV? Now, sure, people settle for that, or maybe want to do that for a day or two when they are fully exhausted. But sooner or later what you really want are new experiences. That’s why it’s called recreation, and we slightly sneer at procrastination.

So what’s the proper view of relaxation? Let me posit that the mantra “work hard, play hard” is correct, though it often has a connotation of over indulgence. We should be as purposeful in relaxation as we are in work. How else are we going to get the biggest relaxation bang for our buck? It’s not like we have oodles of time for relaxing, so we better get the most out of it.

So how do we relax efficiently? I’d say the classic answer is hobbies, but there’s more than just that. As strange as it sounds try planning out your fun time. I personally have a list of activities I want to do. When I come up with an idea I write it on the list. I’m never just sitting around trying to figure out what to do.

I don’t want to be too condemnatory of lounging. Sometimes what you need is a pure unplug—to sit around and play Halo until your brain runs out of your ears. But I’ve noticed that weekends when I do that, outside of being completely exhausted, I’m less rested than when I go hiking, or sailing, or to a local attraction. Sometimes “vegging” is appropriate, but I find if I do it too often I feel like I’ve wasted the weekend. If your only or even primary relaxation is any one repetitive activity I think you’re going to regret your lack of memories as you age.

Recreation doesn’t have to be expensive. There are plenty of local recreational sports teams that are relatively cheap. Take up a couple hobbies. I love outdoor activities, but I also read a lot, play chess, and participate in a number of groups to exercise my brain. Toastmasters is a great way to meet new, diverse people. Cigar bars, if you can tolerate cigars, are mostly frequented by interesting guys. Use a little imagination and you’ll be all the better for it.

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