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In the United States, we put a lot of emphasis on productivity. As a culture, we are constantly finding ways that we can do more. Whether it’s the use of caffeine, drugs, speciality diets, or organizational hacks, we find new and creative ways to optimize our energy and productivity without needing to slow down or “waste time.”

The problem with regularly cutting energetic corners like this is that these habits eventually come back to harm us. Addictions, anxiety, chronic stress, and health issues are just some negative symptoms that can emerge as a result of always being on the go.

In Western culture we also create a strong delineation between productivity and rest. We describe these two states of being as if they are in opposition to each other and are mutually exclusive. However, the opposite is actually true. Resting is one of the most important aspects of productivity. In fact, it may be the most productive thing a person can do, although not in the conventional sense.

Think of it this way. When a person is exercising with the goal of gaining more physical strength, they cannot train every day. This would cause too much strain on the body without giving it the chance to rebuild itself and become stronger. Any body builder will explain that only certain days are designated as “leg day.”

Similarly, our mental and emotional systems need periods of restoration or they will burn out and productivity will actually dwindle. In this way, rest isn’t the antithesis to productivity, it is actually part of the productive process.

In addition, true rest doesn’t mean just watching television and eating junk food. It means giving the nervous system and the mind a complete break from goal-oriented activities. Rest could mean going for a hike, working on a creative project, taking a hot bath, or getting a massage. It can be enjoyed alone or with other people. The most important element of rest is self-love, self-acceptance and releasing yourself from needing to feel productive in a given moment.

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