The Importance of Down-Days

down-daysI remember when I was young; stores and restaurants remained closed on holidays and Sundays. I don’t know if it was our local government ordinances (I come from a small town in Pennsylvania), if it was the owners wanting time with their families (and expecting us to want time with ours), if it was a religious matter (I don’t think anyone in our town celebrated the Sabbath on a Saturday), or if it was merely a matter of habit.

But somewhere, sometime, for some reason along the way, commerce encroached on our Sundays and holidays.

Now, I admit, I am guilty of taking advantage of this change. My family often goes out for brunch after Mass. I often shop on Sundays, because there are things we need and we’re passing the store, anyway. Laundry needs to get done sometime.

But losing these rest days, those down-days, is detrimental to us. On many levels. (Tweet this.)

  • It takes time away from family.
    People are far busier now than when I was young. Kids have sports and clubs and travel teams. Adults work longer hours and more days. Housework needs to get done at some point. But when we fill our rest days with mundane tasks and club events, we separate our family unit. We need that time together. It strengthens the family bond. When I was young, we visited my grandparents every Sunday evening. Not just my family; my aunt, uncle, and cousins, too. That’s why not just immediate families, but extended families as well, used to be much closer. It was the time spent together. We should all use our “down-days” to make time to strengthen these familial bonds.
  • It prevents us from recharging our batteries.
    Working more than a forty-hour week. More homework than in years gone by. Traveling several hours for a tournament. These things take their toll. The human body needs rest to function properly. The human mind needs downtime to prevent memory loss. The human spirit needs a break from the bustle of daily life to stay healthy. Without a “down-day,” we court trouble for later on.
  • It takes focus away from what’s truly important.
    For some people, explaining this is as simple as saying: Keep Holy the Sabbath Day. But not everyone belongs to a religion with this mandate; some people don’t belong to a religious group at all. Having one day a week to focus on what is most important in our lives is so important. It takes away from the drudgery of everyday obligations and reminds us of our priorities. We don’t (or shouldn’t) work to make money. We should work to care for our loved ones. What’s the point of working to support our loved ones if we’re never with them? It’s time we take those “down-days” back and spend that time doing things that truly matter.

How do we do this?

Plan.

Sure, it’s convenient to run errands on our down-days. But if we change our priorities just a little, we can have that one day to ourselves.

  • Do one load of laundry a night instead of waiting to do it all in one day.
  • Stop at the store on the way home from work one evening.
  • Make extra food during the week or utilize leftovers so you aren’t out at a restaurant or in the kitchen all day on your down-day.

A little forethought and planning will give us the time we need at the end of the week for the things that are most important (and the things we’ve neglected the most).

For Writers
Do you have a character who is always working? Give him one rest day and see what happens to him. Or, if you have one who makes use of his down-days, take them away and watch what happens. These down-days are essential for physical, mental, and emotional health. Adding or removing them can add tension, conflict, and drama to a character that is falling flat.

For Everyone
This is a three-day weekend for many of us here in the United States. It gives us the opportunity to group two or more down-days together, to really make the most of our time off. Are you going to use the time wisely or waste it away? Let’s discuss how you spend your down-days, or whether you even have any. I’d love to hear your ideas.

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3 Comments

  1. Staci I remember Sunday was church and family day. Living in a rural area the shops aren’t all open, even now but life does not slow like it did back then. I have days on the holidays which I call down days. Time for us all to chill out and do nothing. I hope you had a lovely break.

  2. I agree with you. Now if I can just stop feeling guilty for those down days.

  3. I so agree with you. Not too many years ago, Texas had what was called a “Blue Law” (I have no idea where that name came from). Retail stores were not allowed to be open on Sundays. Everyone did what they needed to do and shopped through the week or on Saturday, or not at all. And to be open on a holiday was out of the question. But now I’m guilty of shopping on Sunday, doing laundry, etc. And we often go out to eat after church. I remember reading a book when I was a child about a little Amish girl. The Amish community made certain that everything was prepared and all work was done so that their Sabbath could remain a day of rest. We can learn from that.

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