What Role is Artificial Rest Playing in Your Leadership?


While on a phone call with a leader last week, she wanted to discuss how stressed out she was…in the middle of summer! I asked her, “What are you doing to take a break and rest?” After a few minutes of reflection, she admitted that most of her rest involved an electronic device of some kind.

What about you? How many times have you checked your email today? Your texts? Is your phone dinging at you right now?

A trend I am noticing with leaders post pandemic is a passive resistance to real rest. The lines between work and home have blurred, and we are left with a workday that has no beginning and no end. Like the proverbial frog in the pot of boiling water, it has happened so slowly that we fail to see how we are limping under the weight of this ‘new normal’. It doesn’t occur to us that we have fewer boundaries between work and the rest of our life.

I believe we have not only built up a resistance to healthy rest, but we are fooling ourselves with something else, something called…’artificial rest’

Artificial rest is really a distraction or a means of ‘numbing out’. Numbing out the workday, our to-do lists, and even our feelings.

This ‘rest’ might look like binge watching Netflix, doom scrolling on your phone, or even taking a walk to complete a workout ring…not simply to enjoy the refreshment of being outside. 

When we engage in ‘artificial rest’, we are on autopilot, reacting to everything around us rather than proactively taking care of ourselves. However, when we are intentional about real rest, we turn off autopilot, clear our mind, and get refreshed for what is next. We reconnect with and restore our body, brain, and emotional state. 

How do you incorporate genuine rest into a busy day? Here are some examples using the framework of the four dimensions:

Physical: When you wake up, do NOT look at your phone or devices before your feet hit the floor. Instead, make your favorite morning beverage and find a comfortable spot to sit and enjoy the quiet. During the day, go for a walk – not a walk for time or steps or heart rate, but a walk to simply be outside. Look around and take in the world. Listen to calming music but no podcasts. Take deep breaths…anytime! 

Intellectual: Our thoughts run like bullet trains through our head. Pausing those trains of thought occasionally is a good habit. A lunch break (are you even taking those anymore?) is a good stopping place mid-day to intentionally focus and quiet our mind for a moment. 

Emotional: Research has shown that writing down what we are grateful for each day can lower our stress levels and elevate our mood. Simply noting what is going well helps redirect our perspective even when things feel challenging. 

Spiritual: When we live out of our purpose and are in alignment with our beliefs, we gain energy from within and feel supported with a strong foundation. Taking 5 minutes at the beginning or end of the day to reconnect to your purpose can bring you a better sense of calm.

It is easy to be on 24/7 as a leader, but know this – busyness does not earn anyone a gold medal. And, when we replace authentic rest with artificial rest, we just end up more burnt out, and less effective. While it can be a challenge, prioritizing a healthy routine with real rest will help us show up better each day in our leadership, and in our life. 

Are you or your leaders struggling with burnout? Don’t hesitate to reach out. At McKinnon Leadership Group, we believe in real rest to stay energized, fresh and clear. We help our leaders show up as the best version of themselves each and every day.