Taking a Break

When we live without listening to the timing of things, when we live and work in twenty-four-hour shifts without rest – we are on war time, mobilized for battle. Yes, we are strong and capable people, we can work without stopping, faster and faster, electric lights making artificial day so the whole machine can labor without ceasing. But remember: No living thing lives like this. There are greater rhythms, seasons and hormonal cycles and sunsets and moonrises and great movements of seas and stars. We are part of the creation story, subject to all its laws and rhythms. If we do not allow for a rhythm of rest in our overly busy lives, illness becomes our Sabbath – our pneumonia, our cancer, our heart attack, our accidents create Sabbath for us.”

– Wayne Muller

This summer I gave myself permission to go away for five weeks.  It had been three years since I last visited Malaysia due to the complications and travel restrictions from COVID-19. I was slightly hesitant to take this amount of time as I had not done anything like this before.  At the same time, now that I’m self employed, I recognize that I do have that freedom.  And why not? What’s stopping me?

Looking back now, the break was necessary and freeing.  I was able to spend time with family and friends. And also created space for “solo me” time which was very important for me to refuel. I know myself well enough these days that these moments are crucial for me. Too much stimulation and noise from the external world can be just a bit too much for me. 

I spent my “solo me” time on an island. It was exactly what I needed to unwind. I remember waking up to bird song, walking on the beach, and spending moments doing what I felt like in the moment. Ease and freedom.  

Prior to my trip, I was coaching a client who was working through work life balance.  Her world was mostly about work and her kids. There was no time for her. She wanted more time for her and there was a conflict within her. When I invited her to consider taking a 30 minute lunch break everyday, she gasped.  Her response “it makes me feel good that I can check off my list and I really can’t spend 30 minutes taking a break for myself.”  She admitted after hearing herself say that, that it was quite sad.  Later in the session, she committed to taking a baby step of a 30 minute lunch break on Fridays. The journey continues with her to tend to what’s truly important. 

Taking a break is a way to honor our being and humanity.  Here are some links to a few articles that addresses this topic courtesy of a newsletter from the Boda Group. 

  • Recent research shows that Americans are taking less time off than ever before, yet the benefits of using vacation time are numerous. People who use their vacation time are more likely to be productive and even promoted at work.
  • Vacations can also help with burnout, which is an increasing problem right now for leaders. Jennifer Moss, who is researching burnout for an upcoming book, has found that empathy is one of the most useful ways to help others and ourselves with burnout.
  • Other steps you can take to address burnout, according to Zaria Gorvett, focus on our personal agency—our awareness that we are in control of many small choices that can lead to happier and healthier lives. Gorvett’s tips are both practical and manageable.
  • The opposite of burnout is flourishing. Dani Blum at The New York Times has a great article about flourishing, complete with 7 practical steps we can all take to achieve the “lofty combination of physical, mental, and emotional fitness.” 
  • And here’s one final article on something you might consider in these last days of summer—boredom. While many of us are constantly glued to our phones and other technology, sometimes to avoid boredom, recent research has actually found that boredom boosts creativity.

“It’s not enough to be busy, so are the ants.”

– Henry David Thoreau