We are in the summer holidays at the moment. A rest period for many students and teaching staff across the country. This is the time of year that teachers countdown to and a well-deserved break and that all important summer trip away. But why is rest so important? What benefits are there to having a holiday?
It is no secret that being a teacher or leader can be a stressful job. Yes of course it is a hugely rewarding one that people entering the profession feel passionately about, but anyone who believes that teaching is easy, clearly doesn’t know any teachers. Feeling the weight of your job, and taking on that stress will make anyone tired, and more likely to develop colds, coughs and illnesses. For some it effects sleep, digestion and mental health.
Needless to say, stress is something we could all live without. Even those of us who thrive in a busy, high paced environment want that reprieve from time to time. This is where rest comes in. Having a holiday, or even a staycation, is a way to break that cycle of stress. By changing our behaviour and switching off we allow ourselves to reset our minds, break away from those mental reminders of the things we have on our to-list or even negative automatic thoughts. By mindfully being in the present and enjoying time for ourselves, doing the things we love (be that sitting on a beach reading a book, hiking through the countryside, climbing a mountain, or painting at home) and losing ourselves in a state of flow, we can diminish negative thinking.
When was the last time you lost yourself in something you love? At the time were you thinking about your abilities in your job or worrying about preparing your next lesson or meeting?
Recent scientific evidence suggests that taking a period of rest can increase your capacity for creativity. In fact, when we are at rest, parts of our brain that would not typically connect when in a state of stress or rush are able to network. Thus innovative ideas are born of memories, images, thoughts and observations.
Taking time off work, whether you go away or stay at home, can provide us with the opportunity to physically rest and catch up on sleep. This is very important for our physical and mental wellbeing, as it allows us to consolidate the day and restart fresh the next morning. Our muscles can relax and our blood pressure can drop. Tissue growth and repair occurs and energy is restored. Some psychologists believe that dreaming is our brains way of sorting through our emotional and social interactions in a safe space, leaving us free to focus on something else when we wake.
So this summer take a break, get some sleep, lose yourself in what you love and come back for September feeling fresh, creative and ready for a brand new year. You’ll feel much better for it!
 Takeuchi H, Taki Y, Hashizume H, Sassa Y, Nagase T, Nouchi R, et al. (2011) Cerebral Blood Flow during Rest Associates with General Intelligence and Creativity. PLoS ONE 6(9): e25532. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0025532