The Benefits of Relaxation: Why You Need to Add a Day of Rest to Your Schedule
The Modern Sabbath
Absolutely, believes Lynne M. Baab, author of Sabbath Keeping: Finding Freedom in the Rhythms of Rest. "The meaning of the word Sabbath is 'stop, cease, desist, pause, rest,'" she points out. "The Sabbath is a concrete, practical, doable way to build rest into our schedules."
For Baab, it's not as important which day of the week serves as the day of rest. What matters most are the emotional and spiritual effects of taking a break from work. Baab recommends starting small, by choosing one task (e-mail, say, or laundry) to ignore for a full 24 hours. Taking a whole day is best, she says, but even an afternoon away from the full to-do list can do you good. As much as I long for the ancient, sundown-to-sundown concept of Sabbath, this advice comes as a relief to me. Because after sending my kids to school in dirty uniforms two Mondays in a row I finally concluded that Sunday evening really, really needs to include at least one load of laundry. (Do it once and you're one of those flaky moms who can't quite get it together; do it routinely and you're just a loser.) Allowing a full 24 hours for contemplation and relaxation might have to wait till I get the hang of this Sabbath thing a little better.
At some point I hope I can learn to squeeze what must be done into six days and to jettison altogether what isn't crucial, so I can have both a day of rest and a week that doesn't begin in a frenzy. After all, it's pointless to go to bed all rested and happy on Sunday night if it means turning into a harpy from hell on Monday morning because the lunches aren't made and the permission slip hasn't reappeared.
But since even a half-day Sabbath can be useful, according to Baab, I can still use Sunday night to pull myself together for Monday. And, it turns out, my Monopoly game with Joe was about right for a beginner. And so was the coffee date I had with a friend the next rainy Sunday. And so was the walk I took around a nearby lake the Sunday after that. So what if it wasn't a whole day away from obligations? The lake was so beautiful. I came home exultant. And each Monday I started the workweek feeling as though I'd actually had a break from the week before.
Last Sunday, however, I wanted to try something more obviously restful. So I stretched out on the couch with a book, a luxury that momentarily felt almost sinful in the middle of the day. Then I promptly compounded the evil of idleness by falling asleep. When I opened my eyes, Joe was standing there, looking down at me.
"Hmm? " My eyes were already fluttering closed again.
"What are you doing?"
A pause, while Joe contemplated this unfamiliar idea. "Are you sick?"
In fact, I was the exact opposite of sick -- I was peaceful, I was awash in peacefulness -- but that's a hard feeling to articulate, and not only because I'm not exactly familiar with it. It's just that before the words could form on my tongue, I was already asleep again.
And it was heaven.