By Joanna deSupinski, M.A.
Take a deep breath. Wait, first sit down. No, really sit down and not just on the edge of your seat. Sit as if you are anchoring yourself and not the strongest wind could blow you over. Let your legs stretch out in front of you. Now let your shoulder blades spread out as you sink into the back of the seat. Your spine should straighten like an unraveling vine. Your arms should dangle at your side like arms on a puppet. Now take a deep breath from the pit of your stomach filling your lungs such that your ribcage expands fully. As you exhale notice the rhythm of your breath like ocean waves steadily tumbling in and out. Take a moment to notice any changes in your body. Did you notice any tension that has now subsided? If your breathing rate has not noticeably slowed, re-read this paragraph and follow the steps until it has and then read on.
You may now proceed in reading this blog.
In the words of John Kabat Zinn, founder of a leading stress reduction clinic and Stress Reduction and Relaxation Program (SR & RP) at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, “the stress in our lives is now so great and so insidious that more and more people are making the deliberate decision to understand it better and to bring it under personal control (p.2).” Recent research is following this cognitive thread and revealing that we would be a more productive society if we just tried to get to our destination point a little slower. Mednick and Ehrman (2006) encourage naps as the most efficient remedy to both mental and physical health issues. Additionally, they provide evidence of greater productivity when nap time is factored into the daily routine. In a recent article from CNN, the history of Sunday was explored revealing that a ‘stop day’ is no longer adhered to by contemporary society. Sunday used to be a day of rest when stores shut down and families retreated to their homes, enjoying relaxation and each other’s company. Most frightening however, are the effects of prolonged stress that inevitably ensues just in thinking about work each day of the week. As a mental health service provider, I am well acquainted with the resulting depression that is never a far cry from constant stress.
Research shows that work-oriented cultures, such as the US and Japan have higher levels of depression and stress-related medical conditions among employees than other countries (Mednick & Ehrman, 2006). In fact, there is a condition in Japan known as “karōshi,” literally meaning dying from overwork (Happy: The movie. 2011). Also common among these cultures is a sense of guilt when not working.
Don’t worry employers, this does not mean I condone playing hooky. I do encourage commitment to health and well-being and that includes taking an intentional and focused break. It seems then, that in order for R & R to be effective it must become a part of everyday society.
Take a second to ask yourself, should greater productivity really be the goal of self-care and mindfulness?
Happy: The movie. The Movement. (2011). Michael Pritchard.
Kabat-Zinn, J. (1990). Full catastrophe of living: Using the wisdom of your body and
mind to face stress, pain, and illness. New York, NY: Bantam Dell Publishers.
Mednick, S., & Ehrman, M. (2006). Take a nap! Change your life. New York, NY:
Workman Publishing Company, Inc.
Tinker, B. (2013, January 11). The Importance of a ‘stop day.’ CNN. Retrieved from