Updated: Jan 11
It’s OK to Take a Break.
YES! I said it. It’s OK to Take a Break. It’s definitely OK. It’s more than OK. Have I said "OK" enough times?
When the pandemic started back in March 2020, we were forced to take a break and reassess what we were doing with our careers, our passions, and our lives. However, that break was more like hitting the brakes to change course quickly.
In fact, the anxiety that was brought on by the uncertainty of the coronavirus, didn’t let us take a break. We were scrambling to figure out how to support our families, to protect ourselves, to continue generating income, and to ensure our purpose is not threatened. We even looked at redefining our purpose.
However, still with anxiety and cautiousness, a lot of people have, nevertheless, managed to adapt. Fitness professionals, among many others, have started finding their grooves in the online space. Others have sought to take up a new skill like cooking, or even a new pass time, like blogging or painting.
Taking a break doesn’t necessarily mean to stop and drop everything, simply to sit down with a bag of chips and binge your favourite show every day. It’s pausing what you’re currently doing and giving more attention to other things that may need some prioritized attention.
In the fitness world, when you’re training, breaks, also known as rest periods or rest days, are opportunities for your body to prioritize muscular repair and growth and to re-energize.
When you don’t capitalize on those rest periods, performance will suffer, the body will burn out, which can lead to injury. Or, even emotional distress, thinking you’re not good or strong enough, and which opposes the most likely reason you’re working out: to feel amazing. Rest days are opportunities to be exposed to other forms of fitness.
If you keep pushing yourself without taking a break for a little self-care, personal relationship-building, or personal growth, a burn out is inevitable. PsychologyToday.com defines burnout as “a state of emotional, mental, and often physical exhaustion brought on by prolonged or repeated stress.” You can easily experience feelings of depression, anger, and anxiety. Being compassionate can feel like a chore. Consequently, your relationships are affected, with others and with yourself. Sometimes, it sneaks up on you and it’s too late, you’ve already made a scene at work or in front of your family. It’s embarrassing.
Over the decades, we’ve grown accustomed to busy work over productive work. Being busy has become a status symbol. Especially with the advances in technology, work never leaves our hands, literally. Even if your career fulfills your passion and purpose, you still need some down-time. I enjoy creating video and photo content for social media, which fulfills my creative side, but I allocate time strictly for that.
During the pandemic, I was scrambling to ensure I had a website - this very one on which you're reading this post. I was scouring the Facebook groups for people seeking personal trainers or online group fitness classes, finding ways to generate more attention to our fitness service offerings. However, there were times when I would find myself scrolling aimlessly on my computer, as if something would magically happen, when I could’ve stepped back to read a book, meditate, spend more time with my kids, or simply go to bed earlier.
Over the years, I’ve taken the time to work on myself. Although not perfect, and I don’t expect to be, I’ve become more aware of my emotions and know when they’re about to get the best of me in order to brace for a reaction and contain it, transitioning to an appropriate response behaviour.
Here are 3 things I’ve learned that I want to share when it comes to taking a break and reducing the odds of a burnout.
1. Intentionally carve out time in your calendar
Simply put a time block in your calendar for the rest activity, or better yet, “Growth Activity”. When it’s saved in your calendar, it’s more visible than if it were a thought. However, the catch is that this time block is non-negotiable. Someone wants to plan something with you, work around that time-block. I block out Friday evenings for family. I block out time for my workouts which prompts me to stop scrolling on social media. There will be priorities that take precedence, though. So, work your schedule to still include the activity even if it has to be only 15 minutes versus 60 minutes. Don’t count it out.
Blocking out time for a nice warm bath counts too… just so you know.
2. Put an emphasis on activities that promote growth
Taking a break is an opportunity for a change in scenery, so-to-speak. In the literal sense, spending a night away with a significant other can take you away from the stress triggers of your everyday life and focus on your relationship.
In figurative sense, read a book, or listen to an audio book, on leadership, mindset, nutrition, something that inspires you to be the best version of yourself or just let’s you escape into your imagination.
You can also learn a new hobby that nurtures your skills and values. When your child asks to spend time with you, unless you’re in the middle of surgery, realize that you can drop what you’re doing for 15 to 30 minutes. If you can’t, what can you do to include them and teach them what you’re doing. They’re asking to be with you because, to them, you are the most important person in the universe, and these are times that will be missed.
Whatever it is, you must be able take your mind off of daily stressors. Not eliminate them, but just set your daily tasks aside for a short while. Temporarily removing the load off your mind.
3. Be Present
We spend more time with our phones than we do with the people who matter the most in our lives. So, leave your phone in another room when you’re with your children, husband, wife, or friend; whoever it is. Even when you’re by yourself working on yourself. If you listen to a podcast or an audiobook, take notes, instead of multitasking. Be intentional in the activities to recharge your mind and body.
Taking a break is still productive. When you’re exhausted and tired, you do the opposite of productive. Mistakes are multiplied. Frustration increases. You’re circling the same problem, for what seems like forever, without even a small step towards a possible solution.
Taking something as small as a 30-minute break can offer some clarity and a new perspective. It allows you for many more new experiences.
You owe it to yourself.
Psychology Today. (n.d.). Burnout | Psychology Today Canada. Retrieved November 2020, from PsychologyToday.com: https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/basics/burnout