How to take effective breaks?
Updated: Apr 20
Taking a break from work or responsibilities to reflect can be very beneficial for one's mental and emotional well-being. There are several signs that may indicate the need for a break, such as:
Feeling overwhelmed or stressed out
Difficulty focusing or concentrating
Feeling irritable or moody
Decreased motivation or productivity
Physical symptoms such as headaches, muscle tension, or fatigue
Feeling disconnected from others or from your work
Sleeping problems or feeling tired despite sleeping
Identifying symptoms is the easy part though, finding solutions that work recurrently is the tricky part. Then what if you need to take a break at the same time with your life partner? Who is going to look after the kids, take care of the business or make sure the million other things that keep you awake at night get solved?
To be honest in the last years I felt the need to take a break more and more often. I grew up thinking that taking a break means watching TV, playing video games, scrolling social media, partying with friends and going on a vacation once or twice a year. At some point though, after "studying Netflix" more than most of my university exams, I realized that these breaks don't make me feel any better. I got so anxious and stressed that reading tips on the internet didn't work anymore. Later on I started reading books on this topic, and even went for a few sessions with a therapist. In the end I realized that there is no unique or magic recipe here, we all need to find our own solutions for taking effective breaks! I can split my learning in two main points:
Don't wait until you're dying for a break in order to take one (be proactive);
Depending on the level of stress / tiredness breaks can be split into:
Short breaks (activities within a day)
Medium breaks (taking 2-3 days off)
Long breaks (taking more than a week off)
In order to be proactive with taking breaks, small routines can be introduced in your daily activities to make sure you take care of yourself such as:
Check in with yourself regularly: Take a few minutes each day to check in with yourself and assess how you're feeling. Are you feeling energized and motivated, or are you feeling drained and overwhelmed? Pay attention to any physical or emotional symptoms you may be experiencing.
Be aware of your workload and schedule: Take stock of your workload and schedule and make sure you're not taking on too much at once. Are there any tasks you can delegate or postpone? Make sure you're not overcommitting yourself.
Take breaks throughout the day: Make sure to take short breaks throughout the day to stretch, move your body, and clear your mind. This can help you stay focused and avoid burnout.
Plan longer breaks in advance: If you know you have a particularly busy period coming up, plan to take a longer break in advance. This could be a day off work or a weekend away from home. Use this time to disconnect from work and responsibilities and engage in activities that bring you joy.
By identifying when you need to take a break and taking steps to prioritize your mental and emotional well-being, you can avoid burnout and maintain a healthy work-life balance.
What about taking medium or long breaks? Can you actually do that?
Sometimes when we take a break, we may find that solutions then present themselves. (Catherine Pulsifer)
If you need a longer break, that's where it gets more complicated. You probably need some alone time, or talking to people how are going / went through the same things as you. Maybe you need some guidance on how to relax your mind and body, how to effectively reflect and define your next steps.
Together with my wife, we came up with few solutions that have been working great for us:
Planning one girls / boys trip per year of few days without your partner (or kids), just with close friends.
Celebrating every little success of any member of our family with a meal out, a weekend trip or spa day. We're trying to have at least one celebration per month. These are a great way to disconnect and be happy.
Organizing in advance two big vacations per year.
Trying to go on spontaneous city breaks when we feel the need to disconnect a bit from our daily lives.
Going on retreats.
As already mentioned, there are different solutions for different people.
However, if you're looking for a way to truly disconnect from work and responsibilities and recharge your batteries, consider attending a retreat. A retreat can be a wonderful opportunity to immerse yourself in nature, engage in activities that bring you joy, and connect with like-minded individuals. The good part about retreats is that they have different durations, take place all year long, around the world and are diverse in activities for meeting the needs #of everyone.