The Balance of Stress and Rest

stress and rest

We always talk about working more and doing more. But why don’t we talk about resting more?

Recently, I started reading “Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout and Thrive with the New Science of Success” by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness. The authors state, “stress demands rest and rest supports stress.”

Especially in our society, this gets lost. You have people doing more each and every day. They feel like if they stop, their career or schooling or status in the community will suffer. If they take a moment to pause, Suzy or Johnny will speed right past because neither of them rested.

But as Stulberg and Magness point out, in the end it’s actually a detriment to productivity if you don’t rest. Plus, stress and fatigue at one activity often spills over into another. So just because you take a break from budgeting to work on marketing ideas doesn’t mean you’re resting.

I love this quote from the authors: “The brightest minds spend their time either pursuing their activity with ferocious intensity, or engaging in complete restoration and recovery.” They explained this approach not only keeps one from burning out and cognitive failure, but it can actually help you have more breakthrough discoveries. I wouldn’t mind more of those; would you?

Researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi found a common process that successful creative and intellectual performers seem to all have, which was documented in the book as follows:

  1. Immersion — total engagement in their work with deep, unremitting focus.
  2. Incubation — a period of rest and recovery when they are not at all thinking about their work.
  3. Insight — the occurrence of “aha” or “eureka” moments, the emergence of new ideas and growth in their thinking.

It makes me question if I pursue my various activities and my rest with the sort of intensity they are talking about. I often seem to have one foot out the door, thinking about what’s coming next, especially when I’m trying to rest.

What about you, campus rec professional? Are you intensely ferocious in your tasks and your rest? Or are you simply trying to survive?

Don’t take mediocre rest; actually seek out restoration in your life, both personally and professional. Put away all those nuisances and distractions for a moment. Take one hour to pour into yourself and rejuvenate. You’ll be surprised at how ready, able and productive you are when you put your work hat back on.

Heather Hartmann
Heather Hartmann is the editor for Campus Rec Magazine. She can be reached at

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