CNN: You write about incorporating a “stop day” into your weekly schedule. How do you think that can extend and enrich your life?
Sleeth: A “stop day” is a day you really cease from your labors. This really comes in Western cultures from the Ten Commandments. The fourth commandment tells us to remember the Sabbath. The word “Sabbath” simply means “to cease” — to cease from your labors.
Now, the definition of labor has changed over the centuries and the millennia. For some people, resting from their labors might mean resting from their sedentary job that they have, putting on tennis shoes and going for a run. For those who work physically, that would mean coming to rest.
In the book “24/6,” I don’t try to define what rest is for a person, but I ask you to figure out what work is for you, and don’t do it one day out of the week.
CNN: You go as far as to say that going full-throttle 24/7 is an illness. How do you recognize the signs?
Sleeth: I find that there’s a growing epidemic, really, of depression. We’re the most depressed country in the world.
The World Health Organization says somewhere between one in nine and one in 10 Americans are being treated for depression. We tend to work more hours than any other country in the world; Japan is second closest.
When we’re constantly going, we pour out chemicals to try to meet those stresses. We have short-term stress hormones like adrenaline, and longer-term hormones like the steroids that we pour out. Those chemicals constantly being “on” are bad for us, and they lead to anxiety and depression and to, I think, diabetes and being obese.
It’s interesting that if I took somebody in the emergency department and gave them a big slug of adrenaline, you’ll find that an hour later they’re just wiped out, and that’ll really persist throughout the day. I think that’s what we’re doing to ourselves. We’re constantly bringing stress into our life, and the idea of having one day a week that I can count on to stop is very reassuring.
Even if on Monday I’m very, very busy — and that proceeds throughout the week — if you know you have a habit of a weekly day of rest, of stopping, then you always know that’s out in front of you. A lot of people “go” and never know when it is that they’re going to come to rest.