Book Review: Rest by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang
In my last post, I asked what might be a provocative question in higher ed – what if you took a rest? Before experiencing a period of burnout, as I said in the previous post, I would have laughed in someone’s face if they suggested I took a break to relax and refresh. I might take a day here and there or a vacation at the beach every few years, but I was always thinking about work, dwelling on what I “should” be doing, and conjuring up new projects that might contribute to my professional reputation. So when I burned out and simply couldn’t run at my usual pace, I had to learn how to rest.
Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less, by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang (2018, Basic Books) explores how practicing deliberate rest – exercise, sleep, play – can help us get more out of life and our work that working nonstop. He argues that, “When we treat workaholics as heroes, we express a belief that labor rather than contemplation is the wellspring of great ideas…” (p. 29). Mapping a path full of options for introducing deliberate rest in the short-term and long terms, Pang recommends strategies such as having a morning routine, napping, and walking as good for immediate rest, while exercise, depp play, and taking a recovery period can help us deal with stress and burnout over time. He reminds us that “to stay ahead, it’s necessary sometimes to step back. To keep up, it’s good sometimes to slow down” by allowing our active resting brain time to process and make new connections. (p. 225).
This book helped me put into perspective how my overachieving was contributing to an unhealthy lifestyle and make some necessary changes. Definitely worth a read for faculty in the higher ed culture of busy and cult of productivity.