Last spring, I decided that it was indeed a new season. I was balancing a high-intensity degree in English Literature, a fledgling writing career, and my escalating health issues, and altogether it was taking too great a toll on my mind and body. Although I was cancelling plans and neglecting hobbies, I still felt like I was always behind. One night, completely overwhelmed, I decided that things had to change.
I keep my Bible by my bedside. I wasn’t reading it particularly consistently at this point, but in my upset, I pulled it open to a random page. The answer I received was surprisingly simple: “Six days you shall labour, and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God.”
It was time for me to reclaim a day of rest.
Following this command was more difficult than I first anticipated. The first obstacle, of course, was to take care of anything extremely pressing before Sunday. Not being able to do anything at the end of the week has required me to be a lot more on top of things – for example, if I have a Monday essay deadline, completing my first draft would have to be on my to-do list for Saturday.
Although it obviously requires me to be more organized, I’ve always found that being ahead has made me feel a lot calmer and more in control. And – strangely – it wasn’t as difficult for me as the actual resting itself.
My instinct is to work. Especially at the beginning of my experiment, I would drift towards my laptop and check my work email multiple times throughout the day.
I found it very helpful to set up some non-work activities to occupy myself, such as baking, journaling, and occasionally embroidery. I like these because they engage my brain in a different way than writing; repetitive practical motions allow my thoughts to wander unrestrained. This time might be spent working through anything significant that happened during the week, or just daydreaming — which, since I was little, has been a way of gathering my bearings and dealing with stress. If my thoughts do wander over to work, I gently redirect them.
In true Gen Z fashion, I also lined up some content to consume. As the plan was to rest, I stayed away from anything intense, like emotionally heavy dramas. Books, I’ve found, bring out a working instinct in me – probably because I’m studying literature – so I gravitate towards YouTube, and more easygoing television. Creative competition shows – usually centered around a particular skill, like baking, or pottery – are my favorite Sunday show format. I’ve recently finished “The Great British Sewing Bee,” which always makes me want to learn.
Although it’s helpful to have some things to occupy me, I most value the time I spend completely “switched off.” I don’t use my phone, watch or read anything, or play any games during this time; I simply keep the company of my own head. I don’t do any formally guided meditation or set any time limits or expectations on the time spent just in my own headspace; I’ve found that if I do that, I run the risk of turning relaxing into something I can pass or fail.
Resting on Sundays has also done wonders for my mindset. I won’t lie and say that I’m no longer a perfectionist, or that my work ethic is completely healthy – but, I’m definitely less stressed than before.
Starting out the day with the expectation that I’m resting is particularly helpful; previously, taking breaks made me feel really guilty. I would be plagued with anxiety during the entire “rest” period, so I wasn’t ever able to actually unwind. But when rest is timetabled in, it doesn’t feel like “laziness” or slacking off.
Today, I’m actually more productive than I was back in winter. Back then, I was achieving highly at work and university despite my stress and anxiety, not because of it; now that I’m actually rested, work comes to me far more easily. Of course, that isn’t the point: I’m really enjoying having a less cluttered headspace, which allows me to prioritize things outside of work. I spend more time socializing and pursuing other interests.
I also have a closer connection to God, as I’m reading my Bible consistently, and feel like I have the time and emotional space to pray. Being less anxious has, among other things, settled doubts surrounding my faith. I also spend more time talking to family and friends. It’s easier to be creative, and I feel happier. For sure, reclaiming Sunday to rest was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.