The importance of downtime

Carving out time to rest your brain, relax your body and rejuvenate your soul is paramount to a healthy, wholesome life.

Do you resist slowing down? Do you feel guilty when you take time out? Do you feel edgy and frustrated when you’re not working on something? The drive to always be “on” can be very hard to resist, especially when technology allows you to be connected to work and the people in your life 24/7. In this modern world we often underestimate the importance of downtime. 


This drive to always be doing, however, can undermine your health, happiness and even your productivity. If you don’t take time out to rest your brain, relax your body and rejuvenate your soul, you run the risk of burning out physically, emotionally and mentally. I know this, because I’ve been there. Back in 2008, I was 23 and I’d just graduated with first-class honours in a communications degree. I’d worked hard to achieve top grades, often pulling all-nighters and fuelling up on sugar and caffeine to reach deadlines.

Being young, I thought my body would just keep bouncing back — I didn’t realise my approach to life and study was moving me into burnout. It wasn’t until I became sick with glandular fever and then the flu that my body stopped working like it should. My body stopped bouncing back. After experiencing six months of debilitating exhaustion and brain fog, I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome. I thought it would take me a few months to get better, but it actually took me seven long years to regain my health and rebuild my life. As tough as this experience was, illness taught me the value of rest, relaxation, downtime and the necessity of being and not always doing.

3 ways to prioritise downtime

  1. 10-minute breather. Even on your busiest days, take 10 minutes to zone out. Go for a walk around the block, have a cup of tea, practise a breathing exercise, listen to music or do some light yoga stretches. You might not have an hour to unwind, but 10 minutes is enough to lower your stress levels and reset your body and mind.
  2. Switch off. Do you always reach for your phone when you have a spare moment? If you fill the spare moments of your day with digital distractions (which most of us do), you miss the opportunity to let your mind wander. Your brain needs these moments of stillness to recharge and it’s a great way to connect with your own thoughts and emotions. Consider having a tech-free day each week, limiting your time online or choosing designated times to check your email and social media.
  3. Schedule happiness. Valuing downtime is not just about doing less; it’s also about making time for the things that re-energise you. Do you know what experiences help you de-stress? Is it a swim in the ocean, a yoga class, reading a book, seeing a movie or meeting up with friends? List the activities that rejuvenate you and schedule time each week for at least one of these restoring activities.

It’s not always easy to slow down. If you truly love the work you do, stopping can be challenging, as your internal drive to keep pushing and working can be very strong. Downtime, however, is not a barrier to achieving. Having balance in your life is an essential element to creating a sustainable and healthy lifestyle that allows you to achieve great things and pursue long-term success. You can create space in your life for more downtime by making a few minor tweaks to your lifestyle. These changes might be small but they can make a big difference to your mental clarity, your creativity, your energy and your happiness.

Words JESSICA LEE

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