Have you ever stumbled upon a roadblock and decided to just take a break and later discovered that a solution fell into place seamlessly? That is the power of break for you… Infact, this is something i have experienced quite often which is when I understood the value of “breaks”. Growing up, we were conditioned to not take breaks, that breaks were for the weak or stupids.. And so we have been focussed on getting things done, ticking off the items on our to do list, making sure we pile on more on the plate, never sitting idle.

But over the years have realised that a break is the only way our brain can re-energise, and refresh itself. Intermittent breaks are needed through the day, be it when you are working on a project or doing household chores/errands/taking care of someone/etc. A “break” works brilliantly, it is the down time when you pause whatever you were doing, and literally go into a state of calm/chill. The intent needs to be to not do anything, not exert oneself during this break period. It could be for 10 mins or 20mins, sometimes an hour if that is what your body needs.

I remember a decade or so ago when the Blackberry phones [PDA as they were called] hit the market, they soon became a rage with the top management of every company. The device allowed one to access their emails at any point of time, from any where which meant they needed to reply instantly. I got myself one when my trusted Nokia N95 crashed and while it was fun for a short span of time, I hated the “respond instantly” expectation that came attached with it. I refuse to reply to emails in the middle of the night or weekends, that habit has stuck with me till date. I know am a freelancer and need to be thankful for any work that comes my way, but I also need some “me” time… Oh and when am on a holiday/day off, I check my mails/messages only once a day, unless I am expecting any fires.. It is good to put your foot down and set these rules early on, that way people respect you and reach out only when absolutely necessary…

Today, when you walk on the roads you see people with their heads down glued to the screens. Technology and social media has slowly taken over our lives, and with the Pandemic lockdown in play, people are addicted to their phones and other devices. They are constantly clicking away, opening apps, shutting them [ this has become like our fridge at home]. This leads to stress or constant state of fogginess in the head [ lost in thoughts, wondering what to do, lists, people etc running in the mind at all times].

Few days back when I was on a strangers call on “what are you good at”, one of the participants spoke about how she cannot be idle, she will constantly seek out things to be done [ mostly on the work front] and take on more and more till she is exhausted, and goes to sleep. Few others chimed in with similar thoughts and then one person asked “Isn’t this a form of escaping what you are not ready to face?” Others agreed, saying they had demons that haunted them and so this worked best. I was surprised, cos I am very clear that I will do x, y, z and not take on more than I can do in a day [taking into account few hours of me time]

Taking a break

Time out or burn out..
I have been working with a company the last year or so, and we fill out time sheets on a daily basis. The deal with the client is 8hrs a day for 20days a month to a total of 160hrs.. The past few months I have been clocking more than that, nearly 180hrs [ this includes meetings, calls, briefing sessions, and the actual writing/putting together documents of varied kinds].

There are days when I want to just shut everything and disappear, but then guilt slowly creeps in [I am super duper grateful I have work and money coming in, so why would I be stupid and deny myself this when there are so many without work/money struggling]– >See, again it goes back to conditioning.. Whenever I hit such a bump, I pause, shut everything, take a few mins, a mini time out to regroup and then see what needs to be as priority and finish those tasks alone.

Timeout is taking a break from everything in my life – work, friends, family, hobbies, pet, and everything else you can dream of… Just be, I sit or lay down, there might be music playing in the background, drink water/coffee/tea, and relax.. I let my body just unwind completely, focussing on my breathe [something I learnt at Vipassana].

I also know if I am constantly pushing my brain/mind to churn out creative ideas and words, it will burn out. I would much rather take a time out than burn out. So, next time you are feeling exhausted or feel a dull ache creeping up your back/neck/ shoulders, just pause and take a break..  All of these holds true for those who are slogging away at home, doing chores, errands, and other activities as well.

There are quite a few techniques out there if you need some assistance..
1. Pomodoro Technique- Set a timer, work for 25mins, take a 20min break and rinse repeat… Read more here
2. Go for a walk, or lay down..
3. Drink plenty of water, get some fresh air, go out and catch some sun….
4. Do some stretches – eyes, shoulder, back
5. Close down the zillion tabs open and focus on one task
6. Simply Sit in one place for 10mins [drown out the voices in your head]

Update:
Came upon a post by a friend on linkedin on a few apps to help you break free from procrastination…

> Toggl – Time management made better
Simply press start on the timer and after you’re done with the task, press stop and record the work period. Label, analyze and fine-tune where you spend most of your time

> Offtime – Stop that mobile distraction
Gives you the option to temporarily and selectively disable all the distracting apps, messages, and calls with just one tap.
Fear of missing out on an important call? whitelist the contact.

> Brain .fm – Music for focus
With Dynamic Attending Theory (DAT), this special music is designed to help your brain focus. You also have options for Focus, Sleep, Recharge, and Meditation.

> StickK > Bet on it!
You lose money if you don’t do what you said you were going to do. Simply set up who is going to get the money if you fail to do your task.

Above all, tell yourself it is ok to work/do whatever you need to do at your pace and that you deserve a break…. DO NOT FEEL GUILTY 🙂 

More reading material on the importance of taking a break –
1) https://tinybuddha.com/blog/40-ways-to-give-yourself-a-break/
2) https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/changepower/201704/how-do-work-breaks-help-your-brain-5-surprising-answers
3) https://www.fastcompany.com/40475204/youre-taking-breaks-the-wrong-way-heres-how-to-fix-that

Do share some of the techniques that work for you..  Have a great week ahead~