Give Yourself a Break!

Taking breaks is helpful to avoid physical, mental and emotional exhaustion.  Awareness, self-permission and planning may be necessary to getting the break you need.  As humans, our bodies and minds need time for rest and rejuvenation in order to function optimally.  It is important to allow yourself to take breaks throughout the day, weekly and yearly.  While this may seem obvious, many people push themselves beyond what is healthy and don’t take the time necessary to rejuvenate.

Your body is an amazing source of information.  Having a connection with your body is helpful as it will signal you when it is time to step away from the pressures of life.  Connecting with your body requires awareness, or paying attention to how it feels.  For example, if you are at work and notice a feeling of tension in your shoulders and a sense of overwhelm, it would be a good time to leave your office and step outside for a few minutes.  If you notice feeling more tired than usual you may want to take a nap or allow for extra sleep at night until you feel revitalized or change your sleep patterns. I encourage you to be mindful of how you feel because it can give you information regarding what you need.  Ignoring the body’s signals can often lead to more serious situations, such as illness.

Breaks from work, responsibilities at home and from life’s pressures can have benefits such as improved health and wellness, reduced stress, shift in perspective, mental clarity and increased productivity.  Although taking breaks is an investment of time, the potential health benefits and efficiency gained are worth finding the time.

Giving yourself permission to take a break is often necessary as may seem as though there isn’t enough time in the day to accomplish all that needs to be done.  This can be especially important if the idea of taking a break makes you feel guilty, lazy or unproductive.  Repeating an affirmation in your mind, such as “it is okay for me to rest” might be helpful if you struggle with taking breaks.

A mid-day break or a lunch break is a great time to refresh and release stress of the morning by stepping away from your desk.  Many people work through lunch with the notion that it will increase their productivity.  In actuality, you may find that you return from the break with more clarity and energy, which can result in higher productivity.  In addition to eating lunch you may find the time to workout, spend some time outdoors or to run an errand that would give you more time for your evening activities.  Lunch with a co-worker or friend can be a wonderful opportunity to have fun and develop supportive relationships.  If taking lunch breaks is not encouraged at your workplace, taking a regular lunch break may be an opportunity to model effective self-care.  An improved attitude and higher productivity would certainly have everyone wondering what your secret is!

Taking a break, in the moment when you need, it advisable but not always practical.  I encourage you to find some time each day to rest and do something nurturing for yourself.  This may require some planning or can be done spontaneously when you see a window of time.  Good questions to ask yourself each day are “what breaks did I allow myself today?” and/or “what did I do for myself today?”  You will gain awareness of your habits through answering these questions daily.  From this place of awareness you can make the necessary changes to accommodate your needs for rejuvenation.

Scheduling time for rest and enjoyment each week is a good habit.  Setting aside a large portion of time or a day of rest each weekend can help you to refresh and maintain balance.  Additionally, taking vacation time each year can be restorative, aid in maintenance of a positive outlook and prevent burnout.  Scheduled time off can be beneficial whether you go on a trip or stay home.  Allowing yourself some time to do what you feel like doing in the moment can feel liberating and help release tension.

Taking breaks daily, weekly and yearly is good self-care practice.  Meeting your needs for rest, rejuvenation and fun can help to improve job satisfaction, prevent burnout and result in a better quality of life.  Enjoy taking a break for YOU today and every day!

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Scheduled Time Off

Scheduling time off for vacation, “staycation” or weekend getaways can be essential in preventing burnout.  “Burnout is a progressive loss of idealism, energy, and goals as the result of personal or occupational stress.  Burnout results from high levels of stress over time.  Continuing personal or work stress, without rest, will eventually lead to burnout” (CR Figley (Ed.) Encyclopedia of Trauma. Sage Publications).

Getting a break from the demands of life, both professional and personal, can be necessary.  Sometimes we need a change of scenery to let go, rejuvenate, and gain fresh perspective.  This can often be accomplished by scheduling time off from work and away from home.  It is best to schedule time off before reaching the point of frustration and exhaustion.  Vacation to a new destination, a favorite place previously visited, a workshop or retreat, visiting out-of-town family and/or friends could be exactly the break you are needing.

If you have some paid time off but cannot financially afford a vacation away from home, I recommend the “staycation”.  Spending vacation time at home can also be a refreshing break.  Time off may seem extended by “unplugging” for a while by taking a break from email and turning off the cell phone.  Letting people know in advance that you will be doing so is a good idea.  Setting boundaries around your scheduled time off can give a sense of freedom and relaxation.  Giving yourself permission to do what you want to do, moment by moment, and without a schedule during your time off is a wonderful gift to yourself.

If time off from work is not an option, you may also get a nice break by scheduling a weekend getaway trip.  A quick change of environment can have similar relaxing and refreshing effects as a vacation.  The same intentions as the “staycation” mentioned above could be done during a weekend at home.  Sometimes saying “not now” or “no” to others and “yes” to yourself is necessary self-care.  You’ll have more to give others when you tend to your needs and rejuvenate yourself.  By giving from this place, everyone wins.

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