Rest is Additive

Those who follow my blog know that I often talk about the importance of 3 main factors in maintaining good health: exercise, nutrition, and rest. In this post, I will focus on the last one.

A couple of weeks ago, I tested positive for COVID-19. Even though I was double-vaccinated, double-boosted, and wore my mask consistently while indoors, I still managed to contract the virus. I was fortunate to test positive on a Thursday night and have a prescription for the anti-viral medication in my hands by lunchtime on Friday. My case was a mild one, not requiring hospitalization, but I did find myself pretty wiped out. Two weeks later, I am still taking short cat-naps during the day; I am told that this could persist for a few more weeks.

I had a conversation with a client a few days ago who had recently recovered from COVID. She told me that her doctor said something wise to her about her recovery: “rest is additive, not subtractive.” What does that mean? Those of us who lead busy lives think of rest time as being non-productive; if I take a nap or go to bed earlier (or sleep in late!), it means there are things on my to-do list that will not get done. We think of resting as subtracting from our productivity and our lives. What her doctor reminds us is that it is, in fact, the opposite. Resting is additive! When we rest properly it allows us to fully recover more quickly.

This is not unlike Stephen Covey’s example of “sharpening the saw.” In his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, he tells the story of a person cutting down a tree with a saw; it is taking him/her a long time to cut the tree because the saw is dull. Another person comes along and asks why s/he does not sharpen the saw. The response: I am too busy sawing to take time to sharpen the saw. Covey’s point is that highly effective people take the time to metaphorically sharpen their saws; they do what needs to be done to be more effective–even if it seems like it will slow things down in the short-term.

Resting is just like this. Even though we may have to slow down to recover, in the end it allows us to recuperate more quickly so that we can back to doing all those things on the to-do list more efficiently. We are of little use when our metaphorical saw is dull.

Whether we are recovering from COVID, surgery, or an injury, rest is a key component–as it is when we are healthy. Our bodies use additionally energy in the healing process; if we syphon away that energy being active, it cannot be put toward recuperation. It takes a lot of energy to heal, and one of the ways to give our body that energy is to rest and not expend it in other ways.

In the final analysis, then, rest is truly additive and not subtractive. As I have noted in my blog before, it is important to listen to our bodies. They will tell us when we need to rest, and we should not ignore the message. So if you will excuse me, I have a nap that is calling me by name….