You deserve a break – no excuses

Give yourself a break. Your body and your life will thank you for it.

People travel to ‘get away.’

What do people get away from?

Most vacations are planned to get away from stress – the epidemic of this century. The demands people face in this century are a lot different from what they used to be for the generations before.

A fast-paced lifestyle, the decades-long pressure to achieve work-life balance which people never really addressed despite the push for time management and other technical solutions proposed since the 1980s. Global competition for business and periods of recession have been catalysts for asking more from the average employee. The exposure to increasing stress levels has resulted in  decreasing time and opportunity set aside for personal rejuvenation and rest.

More people in more and more jobs are spending time in survival mode. Phrases that we hear often might be some of these.

  • “I don’t have time this weekend. I have to finish…”
  • “I’m just too tired to go out.”
  • “Let’s order takeout. I’m too tired to cook.”
  • “I don’t have time for that hobby.”
  • “This [task] looks like an overnighter.”
  • “I can’t go to [my kid]’s ballet recital. I have to finish that report.”

Listening to these statements suggests that people don’t have time for: a weekend break, social life, preparing good food for themselves and family, hobbies and interests, sleep and rest, or their children.

This list is life.

Some facts and statistics make the situation more concrete.

  • 40 years ago, Americans slept an average of 7 to 8.5 hours a night. Today, over 50% of Americans sleep less than 7 hours. (Psychology Today)
  • A UK survey found that people were productive for an average of 2 hours and 53 minutes a day. (BBC article)
  • The same BBC article reports a study that found a high correlation between not taking time off and developing coronary heart disease and early death.

The point is not to not work at all, and not to discredit important, obsessive work.

Obsessive workers include creatives also, like superhuman Seth Godin and the prolific American writer Henry Miller.

Miller tempered his productivity with his commandments of writing including reminders to value both focused work and breaking away from it. “Work according to Program and not according to mood. Stop at the appointed time!”

The point of getting away periodically

Getting away gives the body and mind space to recover from the effects of stress. Pace, pressure for performance, and crunching time for the complex problems in the workplace trigger biological reactions including the fight or flight response, flooding the body and brain with cortisol, the stress hormone. High levels of cortisol at sustained periods of time result in a number of distressing effects on the body and the mind, including memory problems and lack of concentration.

Simply, working all the time harms our bodies and minds in the long run.

The only way you can curb the trend is to become mindful of your body’s needs and by including enough time to “reset” in your day.

Tom Meyers

The longer you spend in the default setting of survivor, the harder it will be for your body and mind to heal from the stress response it is naturally predisposed to trigger. The shorter the cycles of rest from survivor mode, the less healing and regeneration can naturally occur.

In short, we all need a break.

Avoid the excuses

The excuses we make for why we don’t give ourselves a break sometimes are the biggest obstacles to rest.

“I only get one holiday period a year.”

Taking a break does not have to be a full on two-week vacation like most corporations or companies provide.

A weekend spent away from the noise in our heads allows for opportunities to de-stress. Mini-vacations are a great way to give yourself some down time.

Taking a walk is a great inexpensive break.

“I can’t afford the time.”

Unless you’re scheduled to do surgery on a patient, launch a rocket, inspect a faulty nuclear facility, fly an airplane, steer a ship, or fight a war among other life-and-death jobs, most work is not a matter of life and death.

An office ‘emergency’ is often a situation like, someone was told yesterday to write a report and present it today.  That’s just poor management. So if the situation is the paperwork is piled high, often no one will die if you don’t do it on Saturday or Sunday but instead work during the so-called work hours that your business publishes on its website.

Are you having dinner with your family? A family dinner is time you can unwind. If you enjoy cooking, you get double the pleasure by preparing it and then having the company of people you love to share the meal.

Cooking for your family is a great way to ‘get away’ from work.

Do you have a hobby? Engaging in that hobby is time off, and the effects of that joy you experience in your hobby will energize you for another slog at the office.

Henry Miller also wrote in his work commandments,

“Keep human! See people, go places, drink if you feel like it.”

Henry Miller

The time you carve out from your week to “keep human” is time well spent.

“I don’t have the extra funds for hotel/flight/gas/restaurant…”

Staycations – staying at home during a break— are an inexpensive way to give yourself a getaway and can be a creative way to reacquaint yourself with the place you are supposed to be living in, and not simply surviving in.

A hard-working couple once said to me,

“We had the most beautiful house just outside Sydney. Peaceful, calming, with cockatoos visiting the deck daily and tree-lined view from every window. And we forgot to live in it.”

C and L
What do you love in your home?

What do you love in your home? Did you forget that you could prepare a meal in your light and airy kitchen, and then share it with friends and family in that dining area with the soothing plants on the windowsill? How about that chair you bought, the one that you can sink in or curl up with your legs tucked underneath you to read?

How about sleeping in? Spending an hour in the garden? Playing with your dog in the yard? Playing with your kids on the floor, building a Lego town?

Adults can play, too. At the Museum of Contemporary Art, Singapore.

And how about a long walk in a park? Time at the art museum? Those activities are inexpensive, and have the potential to give you moments of rest and delight.

There are breaks you can give yourself in your home or your hometown, which allow you to maintain wellness and don’t cost extra.

We can’t change the way life moves in our world, but we can change the ways we move through life.

What might be some ways you’re giving yourself a break this weekend?


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