Updated: Oct 13, 2020
Hey y'all....it's been a while. I thought that since I haven't been very active online for a few weeks...the best way to come back would be to talk about the topic of taking breaks. I specifically took a break from being active on my work-related social media. It's very trendy these days to take a break from social media... (and like..post about it...then immediately come back but)...
What happens when you truly do need a break?
Whether it's from your Facebook app, from work, or from life in general... is it a good idea to log off? Is taking a break from social media yet another trend that keeps you stuck in the webs of social media influence? Is taking time off from work possible? Is taking a break from socializing healthy? Taking a break from the news or from constant entertainment must be good for you, right? or not?
In this post, I want to talk about how you can make a decision like...taking a break and I give you 4 ways to reflect on this kind of decision so that you are making a decision that is GOOD FOR YOU!
1. Affordability vs. Accessibility
The first thing that I want you to think about is whether you CAN take a break. Now...obviously, taking a break from social media, television, or even non-immediate family...is not the same as making a decision to take a break from work or home life. It simply is not always an actual option to walk away from responsibilities when life is hectic or overwhelming.
So, can you afford to get away? When I talk about affordability, I don't mean just financially. We build our lives on more than just dollars. If we look at our relationships, our duties, and our health as a bank... we are, at any point, making or taking deposits. When we have been taking deposits for too long we could be stuck in, what feels like, a really scary position. Just like, not having enough money to take a day off from work or to take a vacation can LITERALLY keep us grounded right where we are, so can taking on too many responsibilities, not fostering healthy relationships, not building strong boundaries, and not treating your body well.
This has been my experience lately, and honestly, with the time of writing this being October of 2020, I think I can safely assume that this is the case for SOOOO many people in the world right now. We are tired af. The days are blending in, the zoom calls are zooming by, and we can't keep up with EVERYTHING.
Sometimes part of taking a break is taking a break where you figure out how to take a break.
When we feel stuck and we KNOW that if we put even one thing down...the delicate pile that has been holding up your life may come crashing down....it doesn't feel worth it to try. When you're overwhelmed, letting go of one task can feel like you are adding it to a never-ending list of tasks that will just never get done. Taking a literal day off from work only reminds you of the bills and debt that will now be paid off that much slower...putting off answering a message can remind you of the broken relationships and promises to be there for people...putting off another doctor's visit adds to the health anxiety that leaves you sleepless at night and with morning headaches...and the decision between just eating a donut for breakfast instead of taking the time to make a veggie omelet can leave you guilt-ridden between the belief that you lack self-control but also don't know how to give yourself a treat.......and that's a lot to carry. (add in some 2020 tasks like deciding when it's safe to go out, when its best to just hug a friend, or if and when your kid should go to school and you have a world of heaviness on your shoulder that you just can't drop!)
So how do you decide?
Well... to be honest... nothing that is unaffordable just becomes affordable. When we think of our life as a bank...we either have money or we don't.
When we think of life as a set of possibilities that we do or don't have access to but that are possible...it is no longer about what we can afford to do but what we are able to do. It's now a matter of changing how we think about our abilities and what is and isn't accessible. These decisions become a matter of recognizing your values, understanding your limitations, and finding ways to choose possibilities in spite of the assumed costs.
The real question...how do we make breaks accessible in our lives?
When I talk about accessibility, I want you to first think about just getting in there. Where in your life do you have access to a break? Is it the few minutes before taking a shower? Is it the moment while you are stuck in a line at the grocery store? Is it during the stupid double commercials on Youtube!?.... We have to make a way INTO those moments where they currently exist. This seems silly and 5 minutes a day doesn't really feel like it makes a difference. But it's a start...(and it's a start that doesn't require you to make changes to how things are already because any advice that tells you to "just" turn off Youtube; brings shame into the picture instead of bringing freedom).
By giving ourselves a few minutes a day to allow for a small break...we are able to FEEL that break and from there understand what we need more of. We know it. When we really do just stop and allow our mind and body to just be...we get that yearning for what we have been needing. This may come as a rude thought about your family overstepping boundaries, your kids being too needy, or your spouse not doing their end of the responsibilities, etc. Maybe it comes as a feeling of relief to not have to think about what to do next or to have time to think about what to do next! It could come as a physical recognition that your back aches or that you are sleepy...or that you forgot to eat lunch. (which happens to me all the time!) Maybe it comes in a well deserved and much needed deep breath!
When we can NOTICE what comes to us FIRST....we can use that information to then understand what we need to focus on. Maybe you can't AFFORD to take a day off from work but you realize that you can carve out 2 hours to go to sleep earlier. Maybe you can't afford to ignore work emails but you realize that you can log out of Messenger. Maybe you can't afford to skip picking up your meds but you realize that you can pick up coffee during the trip to the pharmacy.
Now...I understand that all of these suggestions seem small and dumb... and you have much more than THAT going on and I can't imagine how much exactly you are carrying but, hear me out, the reality is that you ARE carrying things. You are holding things that can be held differently and in between the concepts of dropping everything and never letting go...there is a path that makes more sense. You don't have to skip town, leave the country, and go off-grid to get the fix you need.
We all need lives that ALLOW us to rest and recoup but we have to figure out how to make this accessible in the lives that we already have so that we aren't defaulting on our bank account every time we can no longer take it.
2. Restrictions vs. Intuition
Now... let me stop you before you continue. I already know that if you are anything like me... you took the above concept and started thinking up some rules to make this all work... maybe you took me seriously and from now on...the time you are sitting on the toilet before taking a shower is now #METIME ....you will be strict and serious about it this time! until... you get a notification on Facebook and you want to check it, or you wake up late and have to run into the shower, or you don't have time to shower, or....whatever it is that now feels like this rule is cramping your style...
The thing about rules is that they suck. Rules can be very helpful when we need to pull from our willpower and force ourselves to act in certain ways for a certain amount of time but they will always feel like you are forcing yourself and when life gets hard... it's the things that we feel forced to do that feel the heaviest to carry. Rules are also really hard to break... as human beings we tend to have this pull to recognize when we haven't done the "right" thing. We can call it a conscience or our Spirit but we know when we are bending the rules and some of us are more drawn to doing it or more resistant to it. In either case...a rule ends up backfiring, either because we can't stick to it or we are too rigid.
We tell ourselves that we will FOR SURE, take Saturday mornings for ourselves, or go to the gym every Tuesday and Thursday, or read EXACTLY 10.5 pages of a book per day....and no wonder the moment life gets hard, we feel like shit because when we can't commit. We feel like we broke a rule. Or we start to tell ourselves that we aren't capable of following rules, we must be bad people... so we might as well go the opposite direction.
When we restrict our behavior to specific rules, we lose the ability to choose things based on our intuition.
Now, I don't mean any kind of mystical definition of intuition or going off based on every emotion that comes up! What I mean by intuition is that we are able to shift our needs to the moment and choose based on the information present to us at that moment. That means that rather than basing our decisions solely on rules...we make it a habit to pay attention to our behavior in relation to our emotions, thoughts, and environment. When we lean in and notice patterns in our lives, we can start to understand WHY some things leave us completely drained and WHEN there is a moment to just take a break.
3. Reflection & Change vs. Avoidance & Isolation
Okay...so you CAN afford to take time off and you have CHOSEN to do it....now what? Whether you are taking a full day off from work, leaving town for a week, or deleting your Facebook app... is it going to work?
I have many times taken breaks only to feel more defeated and more exhausted the moment I came back and maybe you recognize this same pattern... (i know you do because I see you're back on Facebook!)....or you end up FEELING GREAT... for like...a day... then your coworker looks at you funny, your mother-in-law makes a witty remark, or your uncle posts something racist and you are back at square one, feeling drained.
The reason I focused so much on talking about making breaks more accessible in your current life and not following strict rules around them is because... taking a long vacation from a life you hate will not change the fact that you hate your life. If you are taking a break but not using that break to reflect and make positive changes to the way your life works as it is right now... you will only ever keep wanting another break.
I think, at least here in the United States, we really admire the concept of moving. We watch movies where the protagonist FINALLY makes the big decision to leave their life and start over somewhere new... and yet, we completely gloss over the reoccurring theme that...IT DOES NOT WORK. (as a therapist once told me, you take you wherever you go...)
A break from a negative pattern still leaves you coming back to that same pattern and when YOU are the source of the pattern... you will continue that pattern no matter where you go or for how long.
Science time: our brains like to do what they like to do. They don't like creating new patterns and they like to follow the same paths every time the same stimuli are presented. It is easier for our brains to create shortcuts because it saves energy. Changing these patterns is literally hard work for our bodies. When we don't take the time to really understand our triggers and our patterns... we tend to take breaks from the wrong things and we trick ourselves into thinking that we have fixed the issue and instead of creating new pathways, we just end up surprised when we have the same reaction after we thought that we had gotten past this issue. This is why a lot of the time we find ourselves in the same types of conflict issues or having the same type of fears even when we are in completely different relationships or situations.
So, how do you know if you are doing this? Well, using your time off to reflect on why you needed time off in the first place and actually figuring out how to make long-term changes to your life is active work... it requires an intention to do that. If you find yourself, instead, avoiding emotions, thoughts, or behaviors and isolating from people, locations, or situations without it being part of a well-thought-out plan... you might be setting yourself up to repeating this experience and in turn strengthening the pattern of needing to get away.
[***let me be clear here that, I acknowledge that sometimes the problem truly is the situation at hand and that is NOT THE SAME as talking about an individual's need to take a break. If you are in an abusive situation or being affected by societal issues like racism, classism, ableism, and sexism... it is not as simple as just changing YOUR patterns and ignoring the very real implications of not having the privilege to not be affected by your environment!]
4. Planning vs. Incorporation
Let me harp on the concept of not creating restrictions a little longer. The whole point of taking a break is getting a break. When we actively spend TOOO much time planning out our breaks...we end up being the person on vacation holding an itinerary in their tired cramping hand unable to look up at the sunset. BUT!!! If you're like me, you have a rebuttal to that...
"well, If I don't plan it, how will I ever make it happen?"
This concept makes me sad. I know it all too well. If you are someone who is even having to ask..."should I take a break?"...you are someone who probably desperately needs one but just can't figure out how to get it. I know, because I feel that way too. This is why this question matters. If taking a break doesn't help you feel like you got a break... then taking a break and possibly wasting time that could have been spent being productive can feel horrible. So I want to challenge you to step out of planning mode and to step INTO your life. Whether you waste time because you are too overwhelmed to perform the way you want to be able to, or you waste time forcing yourself to take a break that is killing you, or you actually take a break and have fun and waste time enjoying yourself... that "wasted" time is still a part of your life.
Technically, if I want to be cheesy, there's no such thing as taking a break. We are living our lives whether we are working a certain amount of hours a week or scrolling endlessly on Instagram. A nap is just as much a part of your day as your workout or your coffee date. The people we choose to interact wit