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The importance of a personal day

For the past few weeks, we’ve been talking a great deal about stress in the workplace. It’s an important topic. Stress affects us all. Just look at this excerpt from the website

“While some workplace stress is normal, excessive stress can interfere with your productivity and performance—and impact your physical and emotional health. Often, your ability to deal with stress can mean the difference between success and failure at work.”

But stress doesn’t just surface in our places of employment. We can experience stress in other areas of our lives as well. Common areas that affect our stress levels include the political climate, the economy, relationships with others, health issues, and more.

Annually, the Australian Psychology Society (APS) conducts a survey to help understand the factors impacting the wellbeing of Australians.  From 2011 to 2015, the APS conducted a Stress and Wellbeing Survey.  The findings were quite eye-opening. For Australians, the top cause of stress was the area of personal finance in general (the more specific category of workplace issues fell into the top 10 as well). Further, symptoms of anxiety and depression among Australians increased over the five year period of the survey, reaching their highest peak last year in 2015.

So what’s going on?

Why is stress such a big problem not just in Australia but in the world at large? According to several leading research organizations, 3 out of 4 doctor visits are stress-related in America and 44% of Americans feel more stressed than they did five years ago. In Great Britain, stress accounted for 37% of all work-related health issues. It almost seems like an epidemic that’s sweeping across the globe. Are we simply defenseless against stress?

The short answer is no. goes on to say this: “You can’t control everything in your work environment, but that doesn’t mean you’re powerless—even when you’re stuck in a difficult situation. Whatever your work demands or ambitions, there are steps you can take to protect yourself from the damaging effects of stress and improve your job satisfaction.”

The simple reason as to why stress is on the rise wherever you look is this: people aren’t properly taking care of themselves anymore.

Society at large has become so results-oriented that people are pushing themselves beyond their limits in order to get ahead, get on top, and get further than ever before. For many, their mantra is ‘go, go, go’ without ever stopping or taking pause for rest, and this is a very dangerous approach. For one, when mind and body are burnt out, you’re no longer able to produce your best work, but more importantly, you put yourself at further risk for health issues, which in turn only keeps you from accomplishing your goals.

Now that we’ve covered company approaches to stress management, for the next few weeks, we’ll be shifting our focus to the individual and the personal strategies you can begin to implement in your own life to combat stress and live a healthier lifestyle with a better work/balance.

One of those strategies? Put a ‘personal day’ on the calendar every week.

In many faith traditions, there’s the concept of a ‘Sabbath’, wherein observers abstain from work of any kind. It’s something every individual should embrace. As aforementioned, as human beings, we have our mental and physical limits. It’s a complete disservice to our wellbeing to work nonstop around-the-clock. Eventually, this type of approach will catch up to you and can very often lead to negative outcomes (anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, heart issues).

When we take a personal day or Sabbath, however, we give our mind and body a chance to breathe and recuperate from the work week. In fact, many creative types will assert that it’s in the moments when they’ve stepped away from their desk, when they’re not creating, that their best ideas come to them. When we take a step back from the puzzle and switch our focus to something else, the wheels in our brain start turning in new directions, rewarding us with new concepts and approaches.

More than this, personal days allow us to return to the work week refreshed, restored, and rejuvenated. They give us the time and space to catch up on sleep, to spend time with loved ones, and to pursue the hobbies that bring us joy. When we focus on our wellbeing in this manner, we strengthen ourselves against stress and become happier individuals.

Do you already practice the habit of taking a personal day each week? Give it a try. You may just be surprised by the difference it makes.

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