September seems to be all about gearing up for back to school, back to work, back to the rat race after the fleeting reprieve of summer holidays (if you had any).
The promise that computers and labour-saving technology would mean more leisure time for everyone now seems laughable in the face of statistics that clearly show most people are working harder and longer than ever. In the midst of that busyness, and the stress that comes with it, the Journal poses the question, have we forgotten Sabbath?
“Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy. For six days you shall labour and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work” is the fourth commandment (Ex. 20:8-10a), but what does it mean in a society that can shop, work and chatter online 24/7? What have we lost? What does it cost? What is the church’s role in calling people to keep the Sabbath? – Leigh Anne Wiliams
Dr. David Posen, a stress specialist and popular speaker, published a book this year entitled Is Work Killing You? A Doctor’s Prescription for Treating Workplace Stress.
When asked about the benefits of a Sabbath and the costs of not having one, he told Anglican Journal: “My message about leisure and work-life balance is that they are not luxuries. They are necessities for good health, for good energy, for good productivity and, frankly, for stress relief.
They are antidotes to chronic stress.” Many employees are now expected, or take it upon themselves, to check emails on their days off and weekends, he observed. “There’s a cost to always being ‘on,’ ” he said. “It’s costly to health, energy; it’s also costly to relationships…”
Physically, Posen said, the human body needs recovery time between periods of high stress. The fight-or-flight response was intended to deal with short-term threats or dangers. “You’ve got people’s stress reaction turned on pretty well all the time, and cortisol flowing through your body, and then all the effects of the stress reaction-your blood pressure goes up or stays up; your cholesterol goes up; it causes heart problems and compromises your immune system, and so on…”
The benefits of a true day of rest, he said, include “an opportunity for your stress level to come down, which is healing in itself.” Rest also offers an opportunity to refresh and replenish energy levels, he said. And, he added, “It gives people a chance to connect with family and friends, and enhances relationships, which often get neglected when people are very busy.” It is also a chance to enjoy life and expand it with activities such as reading, music, art and volunteering, he said.
Our 24/7 culture also takes a toll on “the inner self, the spiritual side of people, the soul,” he said. “When people are in a place of worship, for example, even if they are not highly religious or following the service minute by minute, there is a tranquility; there’s a pause for reflection that I think is exceedingly important.”
Time to reflect offers people a chance to step back and gain perspective and inspiration, he said. “Dr. Herbert Benson wrote a book called The Breakout Principle, in which he talked about the fact that when you take time out, away from work, you often get some of your best ideas, or suddenly the solution to a problem you’ve been struggling with will come up when you’re not even thinking about it.”