In the last 90 days, I’ve written five Medium articles. Five, keeping in mind I usually write 15–20 per month.
Also, I have made no progress with my novel.
And, luckily, my husband has been having a blast bonding with our 1.5-year-old son lately, which means more free time for mommy.
All and all, it’s been relaxing 90 days.
There was only one problem: I spent the first half of that kicking myself for not being productive.
Taking a break is no longer an innate ability.
According to this research, half of the working Americans left vacation days on the table in 2019, resulting in 768 million unused vacation days.
And even if you do use all your vacation days, chances are you check your e-mail while waiting at the airport, or take a phone call on the beach. Most of us do.
What’s the problem?
The problem is that your mind doesn’t work this way. First of all, this study shows that using your cell phone during a break (even to watch TikTok videos, let alone reply to your boss or client) doesn’t allow your brain to recharge effectively.
Second, physically removing yourself from your work isn’t enough of a break, whether we’re talking about 14 day-vacation or going out for lunch. You need mental distance. You need to open your mind for everything else that surrounds you.
And the sad truth is we’ve forgotten how to do this. We’ve forgotten how to take effective breaks. It’s not something that comes naturally to us.
So you need to push yourself a little.
Or you’ll come to the point where life will push you.
How life pushed me — and it’ll push you too.
A few months ago, I got pregnant for the second time (yay!) and found myself exhausted and completely unable to continue living and working the way I have.
I was miserably ineffective in everything I did and I felt horrible about it. I blamed myself for not writing more, not playing more with my kid, not cleaning and cooking more, for not exercising, and for craving so much sugar.
I was mean to myself and tried everything I knew to get back to “normal” as soon as I could. But nothing worked.
And when nothing works, when life pushes you hard enough, you finally give yourself what you need.
A break. I wasn’t ineffective, stupid, unhappy, a bad mother, a bad writer, or anything else. I was just tired.
It’s the same with you. If you feel bad about the results you’re achieving, even though you’re really trying, chances are you’re not taking enough time off, and that’s the real reason you’re not fulfilling your potential.
So one day I said to myself “Fuck it, I’m taking a break”.
Then I thought about how wrong that expression is — because breaks are not fucking anything up. On the contrary.
Breaks feel bad (even though they really feel awesome) because we’re not making any progress, on anything. Your dreams remain far ahead, somewhere in the non-foreseeable future.
Maybe you’re even regressing.
And you make less money, if any. If you’re like me — a bit in debt, a bit of an over-spender, and with plans for the summer — that’s some scary stuff.
Add the coronavirus crisis looming over our heads and taking a break becomes an absolute no-no.
But I’m here to share with you why it shouldn’t be. Life happens, it always will, but a better version of you will always find a better way to deal with it.
And breaks lead to a better you.
What is it like to operate at your peak state? It’s exhilarating. It’s life-changing. And for most people on the planet, it’s rare — but it doesn’t have to be. — Tony Robbins
What happens when you take a break.
I’ll tell you what happened to me after a bit of a break. You make your conclusions.
I’m taking a freakin break.
It feels awesome. I need it. I deserve it. It’s okay to feel this way.
It’s a quality that we need to learn, to let ourselves off the hook from time to time. It’s a difficult one, too, because since we were children (man, we were so good at relaxing when we were children, do you remember?) everyone has always tried to put us on the hook, to train us to stay there and never take a step back, unless maybe your boss allows it for about a week or two per year.
And what’s the result? We’re burnt out, working things we hate to buy things we don’t need just to make our parents and the world around us happy. And when our bodies and minds, and souls, desperately need to dissolve into irresponsible, childish freedom, we say to ourselves “No! That’s not okay!” Well, it is. You really can find a way to do it, if you want to. It just takes a bit of practice to realize it.
I’m falling in love with my husband all over again.
I mean this guy steps up! He sees I feel horrible and he doesn’t push me — not in the family business and not at home. Not for money and not for dinner. He covers what he can and finds a solution for the rest — we’ll order in, we’ll ask the nanny to stay a bit longer today.
If I’ve done one thing right in my life, it’s marrying him.
Maybe you don’t have a husband, but I bet you there are people in your life who would come through for you if you want to take a break and need help to do it. It’s like the sadness in “Inside Out” — if you don’t allow yourself to feel it, you don’t allow others to get closer to you, to understand you and support you.
And the great thing about involving other people in your break is that you show them that it’s okay for them to do it too. It’s okay to relax.
I’m rediscovering creativity.
I’ve had ideas these days. Like, the kind of ideas that make you want to jump up and down with excitement.
You know how long it’s been since that’s happened? Because ideas don’t like exhausted, desperate people. Who does?
So when you’re trying to figure out how a certain part of your novel’s subplot ends so that it ties in well with the rest of your story; or what to write about on Medium; or how to make extra money in your job or business, feeling worn out doesn’t help. Daydreaming of a trip to Greece doesn’t help. Pushing yourself to brainstorm silly ideas doesn’t help (not for long).
You know what helps? Closing the laptop, going out, and living life.
Everyone says we should be but it’s difficult when you’re burying yourself under a pile of to-do lists and self-blame.
I’m taking the time I need to get back to the real me. The real you. Remember what that feels like?
I feel a little better with each passing day and I notice the great things about my life, not just the responsibilities. Аnd I am grateful. Truly.
I’m more confident.
Only a confident person gives themselves what they know they need. Everyone else thinks they don’t deserve it.
How to take a break.
So what do you do with yourself now that we told you playing on your phone is not okay?
Yeah, I can’t paddle with my dog either, but here are a few boring old taking-a-break tips that you know and can do, yet you don’t do. That’s why you need a reminder.
You don’t even need to leave the house for most of them, which may prove useful these days.
- Move. Whatever makes you happy. You don’t have to go to the gym. I don’t. But take a walk (even if it’s circling the living room). Dance. Ride a bike. Do some yoga. Whatever you want.
- Meet with people. Hello, three-dimensional friends! How about a barbecue at my house this Friday?
- Enjoy the mess. My husband can only relax when everything around him is perfect. Do you think he relaxes, ever? Yeah. And I live with him.
- Breathe. It’s good for you.
- Take on a hobby. I do puzzles and cook. You find your thing and actually do it.
If you’ve read this entire article, you’re there. You need a break. Please, find a way to take it. For the sake of humanity. We need you at your best. Okay?