Why Taking a Break Is the Sweetest Medicine
Being a robot 24/7 is so 2000-and-late-teen.
Let’s talk about the last time you took a moment for yourself. Was your answer New Year’s Day, or Christmas? As much as we like to classify the holiday time as a break, I personally have never felt relaxed during it all. I enjoy the time I spend with my family — there will never be a doubt about that. But as someone who just finished their college courses, the question “what’s next for you?” seems to hang on like a weighted blanket, asked by every adult who seems to have their lives together (surprise! they don’t either), because there always seems to be something we as humans need to strive for in the future.
Although it is nice to plan, it is honestly really fucking exhausting.
When I received the “so, what’s next?” question, not even two days after I had submitted my final paper for undergrad, it was frustrating, but understandable. In today’s society, we are geared to keep moving and to keep finding the next best thing. I live in the place that claims itself to be The City That Never Sleeps, after all. Many times the aforementioned question is asked not with malice, but out of curiosity to see where the questioned is heading with their life.
So to the question, asked to me on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, I answered: I am taking a break first, before I go back to academia.
Cue the look that flashed across those-who-asked’s faces.
I want to air some dirty laundry: as someone with a chronic illness, my energy levels aren’t at a ten every day. Sometimes I wake up and my energy is at a two — or, if I’m lucky, I’ll get a seven. I am always exhausted, because doing the smallest exercise on Monday like walking can have me stay in bed until Thursday with brain fog or joint pains, depending on how severely my chronic illness wishes to manifest itself that day.
But, there is always a silver lining, and I’ll share it: as someone with a chronic illness, I know what stress can do to one’s body, and how too much stress can inhibit one’s daily routine. Because of my illness, it impacts my energy levels more than it does to someone without. It also allows me to say something to all of you, dealing with energy.
Running around like a chicken with your head cut off when you are in a bad mental spot will not help you, even if you think you’re used to it.
That’s right, folks: trying to push through and overloading your plate can be harmful. Your stress will instead act as a shovel and dig you deeper into the pit known as burnout, or even Burnout Land. Sometimes you may feel like you can handle this part, but there are always the days where it can be just a bit too much. The only solution when you’re in those moments where things feel hopeless is to allow your body and mind to completely rest, which will recharge your energy levels so you can properly get yourself out of that exhaustive pit.
Of course, I know this is much easier said than done. But since it’s a new year, I would love for everyone reading this to try out the following resolution:
I will spend more time for myself every month to aid in recharging my internal battery.
It amazes me how much time we forget to carve out for ourselves after running on auto-pilot in work, academia, or in family events. We feel like we have to do something big every day, that we have to keep going, and going, and going — shout out to the Energizer Bunny — until there’s nothing left to do. Sleep is for the weak, we like to say.
When we don’t allow ourselves to have “me” time, in whatever form that may be for you — biking, walking, swimming, writing, reading, enjoying a podcast, watching your favorite YouTuber (surprise! they go through burnout too!) — we push our body to the point of working on fumes. Try to take care of yourself more this 2019, and see how you feel because of it.
We may be mighty, but we still need to recuperate properly. Even the Energizer Bunny has to replace batteries to keep going. It’s okay to take time off for yourself, because when you do, you come back to work better than before. Sometimes that might be hard to believe that, and I get it. Not being able to do work makes me feel useless. But you aren’t at your best when you haven’t taken a break. Giving yourself that time is really important for your well-being.
So please, give yourself a “me” day. Give yourself thirty, even. Give yourself that three-day weekend every month. Give yourself a break.
Just try to make sure those days don’t align with a holiday this year.
(But if they happen to, there are ways to make sure you truly relax, anyway.)