Thanksgiving Break: It's Time to Rest

Monday marks the beginning of a week-long break from school. I’ve always treasured the Thanksgiving Break because it allows time for family and friend connection, avoids the commercialization of December and and provides an opportunity for our students and professional community to rest and rejuvenate. Let’s be honest: our school and our lives are full-to-bursting. We strive for balance and well-being for all of our community members, but between school work, sports practices, outside activities, family commitments, and college applications, there is not much time to take a breath. Although I like a busy, full life, I’ve also come to appreciate the power of down time and quiet time.

In the book, Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less, Alex Soojung-Kim Pang promotes the concept of  “deliberate rest,” taking time to learn the skill of rest and to connect it to enhanced recovery and creativity. Rest, according to Pang, is so much more than just lounging around and binge-watching a favorite show (although that can be quite fun); it is setting aside time to formally stop what we usually do and reset through walks, sleep, relaxation, deep play, and mental detachment from our usual schedules (work, school, practices). Pang cites studies that show: “We now know our resting brains and wandering minds are actually quite active.”

As I read this book, I was particularly curious to learn about the concepts and research behind “sustaining creativity.” Pang shares the studies of German sociologist Sabine Sonnentag who studied recovery from both high performance athletes and workers in high burnout professions, such as teachers, social workers and paramedics. The key to effective recovery for high performance situations is the ability to have a degree of psychological detachment from our regular routines. Pang believes the combination of relaxation, play, and detachment all help to recenter us for the busy stretches ahead.

So, what can you do over the course of this break to promote that much-need rest? Challenge Success reiterates these ideas with the concept of “PDF”: creating space in our homes for “play time, down time and family time.” (See resources for Lower School, Middle School and Upper School.) It may look different for elementary school children and teens, but the concepts are the similar:

  • Allow for unstructured time to play, relax, hang out, and be self-directed.

  • Turn off media! Strive for a complete break from phones and social media for a chunk of time over the break.

  • Get outside; get some exercise; take a walk, as weather conditions allow.

  • Do something completely different from your usual family routine: read a book together (consider The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas for Middle and Upper School students) or engage in a local community service project as a family.

  • Remember that giving our brains time to rest leads to consolidation of learning and space for new material.

Often our default is to schedule activities for our children and ourselves in order to bring structure and opportunity to our lives. My daughter showed me the value of this kind of rest and rejuvenation when she was a child. An introvert, she needed quiet time in her room after school and on the weekends where she would recharge by listening to books on tape (most often Harry Potter over and over) and building and creating things from shrinky dinks to fairy doll furniture. She would emerge from her down time ready to engage, curious about learning and less stressed.

This next week holds much joy for me. I will have three 20-somethings in our home, all in the “curious, what’s next?” stage of life. My nieces and daughter have requested the comforts of food, puzzles, dog time, down time and perhaps the outdoors, if the smoke clears. Our plan includes deliberate rest. I hope you and your families will find time for your own kind of rest over the Thanksgiving holiday to allow you the opportunity to emerge from this break rejuvenated.