Kwon Min-kyung, 37 and working at a chemicals firm, always feels tired. The legal team manager works hard on weekdays, which causes her tension. At the weekend, fatigue sets in when her tension is relieved.
Feeling fatigued, she spends all day lying down, looking at her smartphone, although this does not make her feel refreshed. She often tries to make her days feel productive by attending exhibitions, exploring new sports activities and meeting new people in social clubs. She feels more tired on Mondays. “I feel like stress and fatigue constantly accumulate without being relieved, but I don‘t know how to be well-rested.”
Kwon is not the only one who struggles with tiredness.
According to data released by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Koreans worked 1,928 hours last year, overwhelmingly higher than the OECD average of 1,500 hours. The average commuting time for Koreans is 58 minutes, more than twice as long as the average of 28 minutes for OECD member countries.
“Diligence and hard work have been important motivations for Koreans since the Saemaul Undong began in the 1970s and in the process of industrialization,” said Ha Ji-Hyun, a psychiatrist and professor at Konkuk University’s Medical Center in Seoul.
The Saemaul Undong was a political initiative launched on April 22, 1970, by South Korean president Park Chung-hee to modernize the rural South Korean economy.
“Recently, antipathy towards hard work and interest in rest are increasing centering on the MZ generation, who have not experienced poverty. But rest is still unfamiliar to many Koreans who tend to think it undermines their competitiveness,” Ha said. MZ is a pairing of two groups -- Millennials (born 1981-1995) and Generation Z (born 1996-2005).
“Even on weekends, they try to do something efficient and productive, sometimes making them more tired. Otherwise, they feel guilty,” the psychiatrist said.
It is “vital” for people to find their way to relax, said Jeon Hong-jin, an assistant professor at Samsung Medical Center specializing in depression and mood disorders.
“If you‘ve experienced relaxing your body muscles, stabilizing your heart and simplifying your thoughts when you’ve done something, that‘s your way to relax,” he said. “If you fail to find this, stress accumulates and eventually leads to depression, insomnia, and anxiety.”
Because each person’s preferred form of relaxation differs, we have to find our own, he said.
In “A book for very sensitive people,” he said it is better for you to find something entirely different from your job.
For example, if you are a housewife, it is better not to do it at home, and if you are an office worker, it is better not to do something similar to your job. It is better to use the brain that is not used commonly and the muscles that are not used every day, he said in his book.
“As for people sitting in the office all day and doing paperwork, the internet or online games do not make them feel relaxed,” he said. He instead suggested riding a bicycle for 30 minutes. “This would be more appropriate for people who usually sit down and use their brains.”
According to “The Art of Rest” by Claudia Hammond, which surveyed 18,000 people from 135 countries, “reading” was what people find the most restful.
It was followed by spending time in nature, being on your own, listening to music, doing nothing much, taking a walk, having a bath, daydreaming, watching TV and mindfulness.
Cognitive neuropsychologist Dr. David Lewis from the University of Sussex showed that reading for just six minutes a day can reduce stress levels by 68 percent, compared to listening to music (61 percent) or going for a walk (42 percent).
It is good to refer to these statistics, but it is more important to find the right way to rest according to people‘s tendencies, Professor Jeon said.
Multiple psychology experts, including Jeon, recommend meditation to relax tension and stress.
Tension-relieving training is helpful if you are constantly exposed to tension and have chronic anxiety, insomnia, and panic disorder, Jeon said in the book.
Anyone can quickly lower their stress through breathing and muscle relaxation. First, sit on a comfortable chair. A chair that has a back and can support a head is good. Close your eyes, relax your whole body and put your arms down. Breathe using your belly slowly. Breathe in with your lower stomach, and when you exhale, slowly drain air through your nose as if the air is escaping from the rubber tube used in the swimming pool. If you open your eyes after repeating this about 30 times, you will feel more relaxed. If it is not enough, likely, you did not take away your body’s strength. It would help if you got used to relaxing.
According to Park Jin-young, a psychology columnist who researches at the University of North Carolina, what is more important than taking a rest is not to work until your body is tired.
“We tend to work unconsciously until our bodies are exhausted although we have already achieved our daily goals. It is necessary to check if you push yourself too hard habitually.”
By Shin Ji-hye (email@example.com