Why is it important to take a break and why you should take one
2020 definitely isn’t the year we wanted it to be. On New Year’s Day, when we made plans for the year, I don’t think most of us would have considered spending almost half the year or even more locked up in our houses. Forget all those trips that I wanted to go on, I’ve barely stepped out of my house unless absolutely necessary. But yes, staying at home hasn’t obviously meant more time for myself because now most of my time is spent on work and then household chores. Even weekends have meant more work- because there is more to cook and more to clean. And there have been many times, I’ve cried out “I need a break”.
The present situation
I’m sure I’m not alone when it comes to this. Most of us are going through the same. I’ve managed work and all the household chores earlier but that was before this madness. It was back when we could put separate things out, when work and the household chores were both not so demanding, when it was easier to give priority for one over the other. Like if I was working late, I wouldn’t think twice before ordering in or going to a restaurant after work to grab a bit. But now it is all different!
I miss the times when I felt stressed, I could just take a break, grab a cup of tea and talk to one of my work buddies about it. Or after days of slogging over a project, I’d be glad about the upcoming long weekend when I’d go on a trip somewhere or I’d go visit my mother or my mother-in-law. A change of scene, a change of pace always helped, and I would return refreshed. (Oh, I’d still tell my mom that I didn’t want to go back to work and throw tantrums like I was a little kid being sent off to school :D) So long story short, a break was an integral part my work routine and breaks helped! Check this post about a little break I took.
Since the lockdown was enforced, I’ve barely taken any days off unless I was really sick. On most days, when my alarm goes off in the morning, I struggle to wake up because with all the anxiety I wouldn’t get enough sleep to feel rested and because it is another day of never-ending things to do and I do not have the motivation to wake up as I feel tired. At the end of the day, things important to my personal well-being take a back seat because other things take precedence because work consumed the time I’d set aside for other tasks, so my personal time had to be given up. Because there are only 24 hours in a day!
All of these are still making me feel sad, angry and tired. Spending long hours in front of the laptop without moving and not having enough time to get some exercise, not eating on time and eating in a hurry and not getting enough sleep, have taken their toll on my health. And again I’m sure I’m not alone.
Why do we need breaks?
We need breaks at regular intervals. Breaks help us function better. It could be that day off you wanted to take or those little breaks after working long hours. When we work long hours, after a certain time, our brains tend to get tired and they need a little rest. Perhaps, a switch to a more pleasurable activity. A break helps you focus better once you get back.
Taking a day off when you need it is essential. If you’ve worked hard enough, there is no reason why you don’t deserve a break. I’ve often been stuck amidst really tight deadlines. It has so happened that just when I think that it will be over soon and I can relax a little, there comes another important deadline. It never ends. But I’ve also noticed that if I go on working long hours for a lot of time, without enough breaks, I tend to make a lot of silly mistakes. Mistakes that I could have avoided had I been more attentive.
The stress of dealing with a lot of things, of working long hours all impacts our physical and mental well-being. Waking up tired in the mornings or having no motivation to get up in the morning are all because of stress. It makes us weak both physically and mentally. This definitely makes us less productive. Stress also weakens our immune system and we definitely don’t want that happening during a pandemic!
It is a known fact that taking breaks in fact improves productivity. Taking short breaks of a few minutes when working long hours is equally important. I tend to sit all day at my makeshift work desk, and I freak out every day at the number of “Idle Alerts” my fitness band gives me at the end of the day. It is a scary number!
My mom keeps telling me that I should take a 5-minute break after an hour or so of work and just go out and breathe in some fresh air, stretch a little, watch the birds and basically just relax. And I’m guilty of not doing it. I instead end up thinking that if I work at a stretch, I’ll get more done and I’ll be able to finish work earlier and then do whatever I want to do. But that doesn’t happen!
So what did I do?
So, one fine day, after ensuring that I didn’t have any important meetings or tasks that needed urgent attention, I decided to take a day off. Oh yes, a day off just so that I could keep myself sane. When asked what my plan for my day off was, I honestly said “Nothing”.
I woke up the next morning without an alarm blaring, but with a smile on my face. I think I felt the kind of happiness I got when I was at school and the summer holidays would begin after the exams. Yes, that is how I happy I felt. I went for a walk on my terrace. I then ordered in some breakfast and ate it peacefully because I wasn’t in a hurry to start working.
Around noon, I cooked some lunch while listening to some music. I took a short nap post lunch, read a few pages of a book. I learned to play a few new chords on the Ukulele. And after enjoying dinner, I again settled to read before going to bed. The reason I was happy was because I spent the day at my own pace, doing things I loved. While I did feel a little sad, working the next day, I didn’t feel tired as I’d previously felt. While the day off wasn’t a solution to all my problems and the stress, it helped me a little in its own way.
So, if you feel like you need a break to help you function better, then go ahead and take it. I’m talking about slacking off or procrastinating. I’m taking about mindful breaks. Breaks that help you feel better and energized to deal with whatever comes next.
If you have been sitting in a place working on something for a long time, get up! Get some fresh air if you can and stretch a little. And though it just Monday, if you feel like you deserve a break, go ahead and take it! (Note to self: Practice what you preach regularly :P)
So how are you dealing with all the stress owing to the current situation?