How To Take a Proper Rest Day When You’re Stressed

When you search for self-care quotes, you’ll often see something along the lines of this:


It’s ok if all you do today is rest.


I have many thoughts about this. To be blunt, I don’t like this mentality. It’s quite misguided.

Sure, we all deserve, and need, a break sometimes. A day where we totally unplug, ignore the to-do list, and indulge in our favorite leisure activities. Not only do we deserve a day like this, but sometimes we downright just need a do-nothing day for survival. I get that. But here’s the thing you need to think about: if you “treat yourself” to a completely unproductive rest day, how will that affect the rest of your week? Will you really feel refreshed and rejuvenated, or will you be even more stressed because you zoned out, binged TV, and accomplished nothing for a whole day?

There are two types of rest days we can participate in: purposeful and neglectful. Let’s break down the common issues surrounding these two concepts.

Not all rest days are created equal. Learn how to relax and still be productive on a day when you just need a break.

Neglectful Rest Day

This is where you do much of what I mentioned above. You take a complete brain break, ignore your to-do list, and pretend not to worry about everything causing you stress and anxiety. Notice I said pretend not to worry. Most likely, your brain still goes to those things, you’re just choosing to push them away and focus on what you’re doing (or not doing) instead. Realistically, you’re neglecting your needs and ignoring your mind and body to simply participate in non-essential, mindless activities.

Purposeful Rest Day

This is what we want to strive for. A purposeful rest day is one where you identify the reasons behind why you need a rest day. Listen to your body and reflect on the past few days. Are you physically worn out and your body just needs to slow down and rest? Is your mind worn down from a stressful week at work and you need a brain break? Have you been lacking in nutrition and hydration and you just need a day of healthy food choices to perk back up?

Once you identify the true reason behind your exhaustion, you can figure out the best treatment plan. This is where journaling and daily planning can really come in handy. Plan. Out. Your. Day. Yes, even on the weekends. Yes, even on a rest day. Just plan it out. You can do this by knowing what activities will suit you best depending on your type of exhaustion.

Things not to do on a purposeful rest day: binge TV, craft, read, or nap for 8 hours straight. Even though you’re exhausted, continuing light movement will prevent your tired muscles and joints from tightening up. This is where planning, intention, and purpose come into play. If you tell yourself “I need a rest day” and don’t plan it out, you could easily be neglectful and actually sit in front of the TV for 8 hours before even realizing it. So have a goal. Know that you’re going to relax with your favorite book from start to finish, but tell yourself that you will do laundry, dishes, stretch, or walk the dog every 5 chapters, or something. You can still be productive and restful in the same day.

Oh, but you’re a mom with little kids? You’re sitting there thinking hold-up, I can’t sit and read a book all day! Don’t worry mama, I got you. I am you. I understand you. You can still be intentionally restful in the morning, during naptime, and in the evening. Check out my blog post about unplugging on the weekends for tips on restful parenting.


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