High levels of stress affects our ability to think and perform at our best and can actually start to make some areas of our brain deteriorate. Fortunately, rest helps the brain ‘grow back’ to normal function. How much rest do we need? Coincidentally, it takes four weeks for some brain regions to grow back to normal size. If you haven’t taken four weeks holiday in a while, now could be a good time to start.
In a study of medical students who crammed for three weeks before final exams, it was shown that their cortex (the part of the brain that learns, controls behaviour and helps us to think critically) actually began to shrink. A smaller cortex means less ability to do all the things that make you valuable in work and life and help you achieve your goals.
The student’s brains eventually returned to normal size, but only after four weeks of rest. While some long weekends and a few short breaks here and there help us to recharge in the short term, our long term brain health and our ability to perform requires us to have some longer breaks as well.
Here are some tips for making this more effective:
1) Get away
If possible, get away. Away from work and away from home. This makes sure that there is no feeling of ‘oh, I really should be doing x’ around the home or home office
2) Turn off the office
Set up your auto-responder and divert your phone. You might still see your email on your smart phone, but if you’ve set up an auto-reply, then you set the expectation for people that you won’t be getting replying until you are back from holidays.
3) Spend time slowing down
Don’t go flat out every day on your holiday. Trying to cram things into your holiday can sometimes be as stressful as cramming them into your work day. Make sure you take time every day to stop and slow down. Maybe a long walk on the beach, or an hour reading a book – anything that takes your mind of