Reflecting on the most popular topics that my clients have brought to their executive coaching engagements this year, in addition to career goals, leadership challenges, improving communication, decision making and prioritisation, there has been an area that is rarely mentioned in leader training programmes: how to stop, maintain boundaries and ultimately, how to rest.  As you are likely to enjoy a break at this time of year, how can you make the most of it?

Rest is not the same as sleep.  Whilst sleep gives your body a break and is essential for healthy brain function amongst other things, rest is about your whole being having a break. Although awake, rest allows your analytical thinking to shut off, and your mind and emotions to be without stimulation.  The parasympathetic nervous system is engaged rather than the sympathetic one that controls the stress response.  And this relaxing “rest and digest” process is crucial for your wellbeing and will benefit your productivity and performance.

If, like my coaching clients you are a do-er, enjoy achieving and others would describe you as “driven”, the idea of just being may cause a lot of resistance.  You might think stopping is for sloths or that you will lose control.  You may even have a fear of boredom as the absence of busyness allows intense negative feelings to surface.  Suddenly the discontent, worry, loneliness or anger etc. that you normally avoid (and protect yourself from) is there demanding to be addressed.

So, how can you rest?

Firstly, decide to rest.  Schedule an appointment time if this helps to ensure that you will allow it to happen.

Accept that you may have not got everything done on your to-do-list for today.  This is OK, you are human, and, in my experience, chances are that you may have over-committed on what was possible anyway.  Some tasks do take longer than anticipated…

Focus on what you find restful (not what is trending elsewhere).

This could be sitting quietly doing nothing for fifteen minutes.  Allow the daydreams to come.

You may prefer deep breathing, mindfulness or listening to a meditation.

Take time to admire the view.  Watch the sunrise or sunset.

Perhaps, yoga, Pilates or a gentle walk in nature relaxes you?

Or a luxurious bath, hot tub, or sensory shower?

Zone out listening to calming music.

Lose yourself and lower your heart rate reading a book (fiction is especially beneficial)

Crochet, draw, doodle, craft, woodwork, cook or bake (without focusing on the outcome).

Enjoy social connection (this doesn’t mean via your smartphone, which is stimulating rather than relaxing)

Whatever you decide to do, balance your stressful activities of thinking, solving challenges and doing work with passive states of being – every day, and allow yourself to enjoy longer periods of rest during the holiday season.


What are your favourite ways to rest?