Today’s guest post is by Donna, a scientist who now works in professional development at Johns Hopkins Medicine – and, most significantly, was a semi-finalist in the 2009 Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions. To learn more about her work see http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/pdo .
We often neglect our important responsibilities to ourselves – especially when the needs of others, or deadlines, or other stresses intervene. If we need that extra hour to finish a project, we skip going to the gym. Or skimp on sleep. Or eat fast food instead of taking the time to make something healthful. My view has long been that the “white space” in the day is essential for getting the most out of the hours that are booked. Yet, like all of us, I find it hard to block out time to recharge. Fortunately, the tool to help us do exactly that has been around for thousands of years. Some of the world’s great religions prescribe a day of rest – a Sabbath, or in Hebrew, Shabbat. Do you remember the old rye bread ads, “You don’t have to be Jewish to love Levy’s?” Well, you don’t have to be Jewish, or any kind of a believer, to love Shabbat. Anyone can understand and benefit from the observance. Over time, I’ve increased my adherence to observing Shabbat, with some exceptions. From essentially zero, I started not working, then not shopping, then not writing. It’s more or less arbitrary – I’ll still use appliances or electronics as long as it’s for enjoyment, not work. Because my point is not a fundamental prohibition on what Biblical interpretation calls “work.” My point is to have time to step back, reflect, mentally refuel. I truly believe Shabbat has made me a better colleague, and has made my time at work more productive in both output and quality. There is no question that it has lowered my risk for stress-related diseases. Think about it! If you enforce in your own life one day a week to psychically catch your breath and get more oxygen to your mental muscles, you will able to do a better job and be healthier all around.