Building a Healthy Rhythm of Work and Rest

Ria Corda

September 25, 2020

When I was in high school, I loved being busy. I felt like I could achieve anything I set my mind to. So I joined every club and competition I was interested in. That meant a lot of walking between school buildings, traveling to different places, staying late in school, and finishing requirements way past midnight. 

I wore the badge of workaholic with so much pride. That is, until I began to experience severe leg cramps in my senior year. I would wake up screaming in the middle of the night, crying as my entire leg spasmed in pain almost every night. It made me lose a lot of sleep. So did my sister, who’s my roommate, and our poor Mamita, who would tirelessly massage my leg night after night. It finally stopped when I graduated and moved on to a less strenuous college life.

But my wrong mindsets about work and rest remained. 

The severe leg cramp turned into insomnia, and then at some point, burnout, when I was studying for my master’s degree—until I unlocked some hacks on having a healthy rhythm of work and rest. 

That meant some wrong mindsets I had about work and rest had to be broken. What are some of these wrong mindsets?

Wrong Mindsets About Work

1. Work is my identity.

“Ah, si John. Yung point guard.”

“Yung magaling na feature writer, si Ann.”

“Yung maganda yung boses. Nicole yata yun.”

“Si Paul! Yung vlogger!”

It’s hard to separate ourselves from how people know us. Often, it’s related to the work that we do. So, it’s not surprising that we start to associate who we are with what we do

But what happens to the point guard who becomes injured, unable to play for the rest of the season? What will the feature writer think when her work gets rejected? How will the singer respond when a better artist comes along? What if the vlogger’s view count drops drastically?

The sad reality when work becomes your identity is that your skill or your ability might be tested or taken away anytime. Who will you be then? There must be a better source for your identity.

2. Work defines my destiny.

Nakahiga ka na naman sa kama. Wala ka talagang kwenta! Ang tamad tamad mo.”

“Tulog ka nang tulog. Bagsak ka na naman niyan.”

“Wow, top 1 na naman ‘yan. ’Di na lumalabas ng kwarto e.”

Too often, we find our future being predicted based on what we’re doing at the moment. If you experience this a lot, you may be prone to two extremes: working yourself to the bone or living a fatalistic life without any definite direction. 

But your present situation does not herald your future. 

Who or what should define your destiny? 

3. Work is the source of my significance.

Being a middle child figured a lot in my being a workaholic. My older sisters were brilliant—and I mean they’re not just smart. They were also popular and talented. And we all went to the same schools growing up! So there I was, feeling compelled since kindergarten to be at par with or to be better than them, just so my existence would be justified.

I felt momentary satisfaction with each award and accomplishment, but more often than not, I was gripped by the fear of failure. I was afraid that if I didn’t meet “the standard,” my parents, my teachers, and the older sisters I idolized would ignore me. My family would still love me, sure, but I felt I would have been overlooked. 

Don’t you hate feeling like you don’t matter? The truth is, you matter. Science proves that the odds were stacked against your birth, and yet here you are, still living and breathing—which means you matter and you have a purpose

Work is simply to do what God wants you to do. You don’t have to work to prove you are important, because He already created you for a purpose and a destiny.

Work doesn’t have to be your source of identity. You can embrace the identity of being God’s child by receiving Him as your heavenly Father. In Him, you will always belong. You will always be loved and accepted for who you are, regardless of your performance.

Wrong Mindsets About Rest

1. Rest is unproductive time.

We may have the mindset that resting and doing nothing makes us unproductive. Not at all. Taking time to rest is like taking the time to sharpen the axe so it remains effective to do its purpose for the long term. 

Rest is productive in that it helps to refresh and invigorate us for the next stretch of work.

2. Rest is unnecessary if you’re not sick or tired.

I’ve always reasoned that for as long as I don’t feel fatigued or I’m not sick, I can still go on and not take breaks. However, by the time we feel sickness or fatigue set in, that means our bodies have already taken a beating. Keeping that up affects the health of our internal organs in the long run. 

Do your mind, your heart, and your body a favor by taking short breaks daily, scheduling a longer one once a week (a Sabbath rest), and sleeping well. 

3. Rest is for “me-time.”

When we’ve worked hard, we tend to see rest as a time to do anything we want, because we deserve it. We call this “me-time.” But if we only take “flesh breaks” (binge-watching, playing video games, etc.), we will still feel tired somehow. 

This is because we also need to rest our mind and our hearts by resting in God

How do our wrong mindsets about our identity, our destiny, and our significance get broken? It is when we spend time connecting with God and be reminded that we work to fulfill His purpose for us. 

We can rest because we know that everything is in the hands of our good Father who never stops working.

Actually, rest is freedom. It’s freedom from the mindset that we need to work to matter, from trying to take control of things that can only be in His hands, and is a gift and a privilege that all of God’s children are meant to enjoy.

Now that we’ve hopefully broken some wrong mindsets about work and rest, it’s time for us to get some tips on building a healthy rhythm between the two. After all, as mentioned in the latest episode of the “Today on Campus” podcast, The best gift you can give other people is a healthy you.

What does a Healthy Rhythm of Work and Rest Look Like?

1. When it’s time to work, work.

My biggest struggles as a student were procrastination and cramming, which is why I would hardly sleep right before a deadline or an exam. Those deadlines and exams were usually in the same week. I’d end up being a glorified zombie by the weekend.

Looking back, I could have scheduled a set time for studying and doing part of each requirement daily—and I should actually be working during that set time.

  • Be present.

One of the keys to building a healthy work rhythm is to remember that time for work should not be mixed with browsing social media, eating mindlessly, or indulging in any other activity that takes time away from it. In this way, we won’t feel guilty or restless when it’s time to rest, because we gave our best work for the day.

One of the most effective study habits I’ve built growing up was to be fully present during the class and during group meetings. In the classroom, I would do my best to give my teacher 100% of my attention. I found that reviewing for exams was so much easier when I’d truly listened. 

  • Schedule short amounts of time daily to do your work.

Yes, that requirement might still be due a few weeks from now or your exam may still be next month. But, breaking down that requirement and that exam reviewer into manageable tasks every day will surely help. Don’t cram too many tasks in a day. Try to have a 10-hour total cap for doing classes, assignments, and meetings in a day.

Aside from being fully present in class, I’d also set aside time during the day to study or rewrite my notes and process the information better. So even if I did cram for exams, it was balanced with well-processed lessons. Surely, if I planned my study time better instead of cramming, I could have rested better during exam week. 

Ask yourself these questions: 

Do I get to focus on work when it’s time to work? 

Am I fully present in class and in group meetings so I don’t end up wasting time repeating things because I missed the information? 

What are my distractions and how can I avoid them? 

2. When it’s time to rest, be intentional.

Because of our wrong perception about rest, we can barely put rest in our schedule. In order to rest well, rest must be planned. In this way, not only can we choose well what kind of rest we will do, but we can also involve our family in our decision to build this healthy rhythm.

  • Plan your rest.

Intentionally schedule rest into your day. When it’s break time, really take a break and don’t use it to do homework. Do stuff unrelated to school or work: Connect with God, spend time with family, make time for hobbies, or take a walk. 

  • Involve your family.

Your family would love to see your face from time to time. Let them know your schedule so that they know when to expect you to help around the house or to spend time with them. 

For instance, when they know it’s your study time, then you can ask them to not disturb you. And then when they know it’s your time of rest and that you plan to use part of that time to connect with them, they could also adjust their schedules to spend time with you. 

Also, when they know you plan to connect with God or make time for a hobby or sleep, you can request to be left alone during that time. This way, you get quality time with God, with family, with work, and for yourself.

Ask yourself these questions: 

Do I schedule and plan my time of rest? 

How can I involve my family in my schedule?

This season, it’s so much harder to find a time and place to rest well when we both study and rest at home. But when we understand the mindsets that need to be broken and how essential a healthy rhythm of work and rest is, we will be intentional in finding ways to make sure it happens. 

Rest well, world changer! Here’s to a healthier you who can better serve others.


The Author

Ria Corda

Ria is a campus missionary at Every Nation Campus Fort Bonifacio. When she got the call for full time ministry in 2002, she said she would never disciple kids or high school students. Two years later, she joined Kids Ministry, and has been discipling preteens and teenagers ever since. She spends a lot of time marveling at the irony of it all, and being thankful for the times when God called us to do what we didn’t initially want to do.