Has the pandemic robbed us of rest?

A/Prof Tan Boon Yeow // May 12, 2020, 7:47 pm


Rest is crucial, even if you are working from home these days, says Dr Tan. Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash.

 “Do you ever rest?”

“Where do you find the energy?”

“Why you like never tired one?”

“Please find time to rest … ”

I get asked these questions frequently and have increasingly been advised to rest these days.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also resulted in more people working from home, blurring the boundaries of work and rest.

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How does one find rest? 

I would like to suggest that we have to rest in the following three areas, to be completely rested.

1. Rest physically 

I do get tired. In fact I was so tired when SARS hit in 2003 that I almost couldn’t carry on. That same year, I had taken on an appointment with the National University of Singapore (NUS) as an adjunct assistant professor and was concurrently appointed as the acting medical director of St Luke’s Hospital.

I reached a point where I lost the joy of working, feeling as if I was on a treadmill that I couldn’t get off.  

As doctors, we are used to working seven days a week, with overnight calls to attend to during the weekends. In addition, we have administrative work to complete after office hours, as well as household chores. We also need to meet the needs of our family members and loved ones.

I reached a point where I lost the joy of working, feeling as if I was on a treadmill that I couldn’t get off.

It was then that I realised I needed to have sufficient physical rest. Not just daily, but also weekly. Taking a Sabbath rest is one of the 10 Commandments in the Bible. Sabbath rest is, in essence, an intentional day away from work each week, to put all the stressors aside and physically rest. There is wisdom indeed in God’s commands!

When I diligently put that rhythm of rest into practice, joy at work and joy at home returned. To this day, I do not dare to break this commandment – once bitten twice shy indeed.

2. Rest psychologically

I find it extremely tiring when asked to do things that I cannot understand.

Thankfully, this does not happen frequently. Occasionally, when there were decisions that didn’t seem to have a clear rationale (to me) and shifting goalposts, I struggled to the point of exhaustion, both mentally and emotionally.

On such occasions, I had conversations with those concerned and with a few trusted and wise mentors. That, together with time spent seeking God, helped me to make sense of what was going on. A combination of personal steps taken in faith, as well as a change in circumstances, finally helped me find psychological rest.

To me, the key to being able to rest psychologically is to find time to have in-depth conversations with self and God, with the people involved in the situation, and with wise seniors or mentors. If you are in this situation, I suggest talking it out with your seniors or mentors at work or church or with your trusted friends and family.

3. Rest purpose-fully 

What’s your purpose in life?

What’s your reason for existence?

What motivates you to get up every morning?

Purposeful living gives meaning to the many mundane activities of our daily lives.

I suspect that we can’t find sustained rest until we discover our purpose in life.

Purposeful living gives meaning to the many mundane activities of our daily lives. Many of us set short term goals, and we live from one goal to the next (a better appraisal, a nicer car, a home upgrade, starting a relationship, getting our kids into a good school … the list goes on). Achieving each of these goals in itself does not bring about a rested state for long.

I was restless in my younger days. Growing up, I had attended church especially before examinations so I could be blessed. Taking up medicine as a career was not only based on altruistic reasons.

However, on a trip with a group of friends prior to starting medical school, I was introduced to Christ by a friend. That fateful conversation into the wee hours of the morning allowed my friend to unpack the true meaning of the Christian Gospel (“good news”).

I realised I was only being “religious” by going to church. But being a Christian meant having a real, living relationship with Christ as my Saviour and Lord.

I began to discover my niche as a doctor, to serve those around me and to be a conduit of God’s love to them.

Finding Christ helped me to find my purpose in life. I began to discover my niche in life as a doctor, to serve those around me and, more importantly, to be a conduit of God’s love to them.

Through the ensuing years, I would go on to discover areas of my life that I had to allow God to deal with, sometimes painfully, but just so that I can continue be purposeful in what I do for Him.

At this stage of my life, my purpose statement is: “To inspire, build, lead; and in this, to glorify God.” In Christ, I found my life purpose, and I found rest.

What about you? What is your life purpose?

Are you rested today?

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29

This article is adapted from a letter by A/Prof Tan Boon Yeow to the staff of St Luke’s Hospital.

About the author

A/Prof Tan Boon Yeow

A/Prof Tan Boon Yeow has been working at St Luke’s Hospital as a doctor since 1999, and is currently its CEO. He is also involved in both undergraduate and postgraduate medical education. His wife and helpmate, Low Yee, and their twin daughters, Grace and Gayle, keep him grounded.