The Benefits of Rest

 Insights from the students of UCSC Hillel about Shabbat, the weekly day of rest. 

November 18, 2020

By , Cowell Programs Assistant 

Every Friday night, the students at UCSC Hillel come together virtually and celebrate the Sabbath. Known as Shabbat in Hebrew, this weekly ritual gives Jewish students a chance to de-stress and recharge in preparation for the week ahead. Shabbat rituals begin every Friday at sundown by giving blessings over lit candles, wine, and challah. While the origins of Shabbat are biblical, its practices have evolved over thousands of years. 

Especially for university students, modern Shabbat is a form of self-care. It looks different to every individual but serves the same purpose of rest and reflection. Before we enter Week Eight, I invite you to consider the following wellness rituals to add to your own self-care routine:

Time with Friends and Family

Before the pandemic, Shabbat was the perfect time to catch up with friends or gather at the dinner table with your family. Although we can't physically eat together anymore, students have found new ways to be in community.

First-year Cowell student Dani recalls how her family's traditions have changed over the past year: "Every Friday night, my family eats dinner together. Now we get together over Zoom, or outdoors with tables six feet apart." Other students, including first-year Stevenson affiliate Louis, come together virtually at Hillel's weekly Zoom Shabbat events. 

Although Friday night is traditionally the time for gathering with loved ones, you can make the time wherever it fits! 

Instead of having a Friday night Shabbat dinner, you might:

  • Play Jackbox Games with your friends
  • Have a socially-distanced picnic
  • Reach out to someone special for a phone call

A Technology Detox

The transition to online learning has meant an unprecedented increase in screen time for students. When we aren't in Zoom lectures or doing Canvas discussions, social media is a go-to distraction. The use of technology is often the first thing Jewish students give up for Shabbat. 

Fourth-year RCC student Zach, who is currently studying in Jerusalem, is shomer Shabbos: he completely avoids both work and technology for the 25 hours that Shabbat lasts, from sundown on Friday to after sunset on Saturday. With the extra time away from screens, Zach's Shabbat routine includes spending quality time with loved ones, reading a novel, and taking a Saturday afternoon nap. 

If spending 25 hours away from your phone gives you major separation anxiety, try setting it to "Do Not Disturb" and leaving it somewhere safe. This way, you've set the intention of looking away from the screen, but if you need to check notifications once or twice, you can. If 25 hours is too long, but you feel comfortable turning the device fully off, set a smaller goal of 3 hours instead!

Structured Relaxation

Mindfulness, relaxation, and Shabbat go hand-in-hand. Setting aside intentional time for relaxation means connecting with your own wants and needs. Do you want to spend time in nature? Have you been missing your guitar? Been thinking about getting back in touch with your artistic side? Shabbat is the perfect opportunity to enjoy the present moment without the distraction of Instagram or the pressure of an assignment. 

My favorite Shabbat activities are reading fantasy novels, listening to my favorite music, and baking bread. I try not to get caught up on technicalities — I have to use my phone to play music, and baking is technically "labor" — the practice of doing what's relaxing to me is what's most important. 

Make a list of your favorite things to do off-line. When Shabbat arrives on Friday evening, see if any of those things pique your interest. Keep checking things off the list until Saturday at sundown, when Shabbat ends — leaving you refreshed and energized for the week to come!

 A Space to Reflect 

Lastly, Shabbat gives you a moment to breathe. For me, taking a break during the school day means one of two things: quickly running to recaffeinate and get back to work or falling into an endless scroll-hole on TikTok. When these are the only two options, it's easy to forget the importance of checking in with myself.

Shabbat removes the need for stress-fueled breaks since no work needs to be done. It also gives you a break from social media and an opportunity to be intentional with your time. Apart from enjoying your hobbies and spending time with loved ones, Shabbat is the perfect time for reflection. 

Some ways to process your self-reflection:

  • If you like to journal, write down the highs and lows of your week
  • Try a guided meditation
  • Do a body scan (our bodies hold stress just like our minds!)
  • Decide on an intention on Friday evening, remember it throughout all of your Shabbat rituals
You don't have to practice Judaism to experience the benefits of Shabbat. Everyone who is feeling overwhelmed or Zoom-fatigued can find self-compassion and relaxation from the rituals of Shabbat. The stress of the quarter system makes finding time for self-care difficult, but necessary. Whether you decide to put your phone away, take a nap, read a novel, or talk with a friend, Shabbat will always be there with 25 hours to rest.