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Make time to press ‘pause’

It will all be over in a matter of a fortnight. Every year, school-aged children and the nation’s teachers and principals look forward to the July/August vacation: eight weeks away from the daily challenges of school life.

It’s a time for most students to put down pencils and pens, close their books, tablets, and laptops and relax their minds from the academic learning of three school terms.

Traditionally, the vacation period is an opportunity to do other activities –play and leisure time being the priority, like visiting the zoo or spending the day at one of our popular beaches. For those less inclined, there’s a trip to a mall, and for those who could afford, visit family overseas. Current Covid restrictions have squashed these traditions.

We all need a vacation, for rest and relaxation. It is a necessity. The Church teaches that God created us for labour, leisure, and love.

In Genesis, it is written that God worked for six days on creation and on the seventh, He rested. Later, we read in the New Testament that Jesus often rested, frequently going off on His own to pray in solitude. In Mark 6:31–33, Jesus invites His disciples to “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”

To rest is part of our rhythm of life. The medical experts say we need sleep, a minimum of eight hours a day. However, they also speak of the need to rest as it rejuvenates body and mind, regulates mood, and is linked to learning and memory function.

There are seven days in the week and two of those days, Saturday and Sunday, are considered to be days of rest from the work week. Most employers ensure their staff are entitled to some form of annual vacation as the body and mind cannot perform at their best for weeks and months on end, especially in highly stressful jobs.

Not getting enough rest can negatively affect your mood, immune system, memory, and stress level. Concentration is affected. People become irritable and more prone to making mistakes.

Our high-paced world today, in which some have no choice but to work weekdays and weekends, and sometimes two and three jobs to ensure their families survive, has put many on edge. There has been much discussion on managing one’s mental health.

For this reason, many see some positive aspects of the coronavirus pandemic on lifestyles. The Earth itself seemed to have taken a rest and was able to breathe again. Skies over highly industrialised cities were cleared of smog even for a while, and nature seemed to have pressed ‘reset’ with the re-emergence of plant and animal life.

Covid has forced an adjustment to the way we rest. ‘Work From Home’ is now a term familiar to those whose jobs can be performed online and it is equally important that these workers also carve out space for themselves to rest, even within the confines of their home.

The July/August vacation has discouraged many from overseas travel, affording them an opportunity to discover their home country in a ‘staycation’. And while parents and guardians may express some level of frustration at not being able to send their children off to physical ‘summer’ camps, the creativity needed to occupy children closer to home benefits everyone in the family.

As this vacation period comes to an end and the inevitable return to school – in person, blended learning or online – let us not underestimate the spiritual need for all of us to come away and rest a while.

Make the time to press ‘pause’. We all need a break, especially in troubling times.