It’s really important to work hard at what you do, but it’s also just as important to take a break, reflect, and really relax so you can work hard the rest of the time. So often we keep going pell mell until we end up dragged out, sick, and tired. If you take time to have meaningful breaks, you can avoid those burn-outs and be a more productive, more pleasant, and more healthy you.
Here’s a few strategies I’ve found particularly effective:
Take Weekends off
Take a day (or two if you can) off from work. During that time, don’t take calls from work, don’t think about work, just be present in the moment, even if that moment is lying in bed all day, really feel that, so when you do have to eventually get up and go back to your office, restaurant, or school, you’ll remember how fully relaxed and blissed out you were.
Go to your element
Some people prefer solitude to unplug, and others distractions and excitement. I like a mix of both. I like to sleep in late, and not change out of pajamas until 4 or 5 in the afternoon on Sundays, but on Saturdays, I like to do something, go apple picking, carve a pumpkin, or sit at the park. Whatever you do, don’t do it because you “think you should” run out and go shopping, or lie in bed when you love to go for a morning run. Do what feels natural and most relaxing to you.
Separate Work from Play
Sometimes we can’t afford a lot of time off. For those times, especially if you work a couple jobs, or like me have a day job and a few night gigs, it’s even more important to separate your work time from your play time.
Unplug from Technology
I’ve talked about how I don’t watch television before, but on weekends I go further and most of the time turn off my cell phone so I’m unreachable. This may be extreme (especially if you’re meeting up with people), but at least take a break from your internet habit for a day. Once again, simply being out of the “loop” is what’s important here. Just relax.
Learn to Take Naps
Most of the greatest thinkers in history only worked mornings, or evenings, and they took a lot of naps. While we can’t take time out of our day to take a two hour nap to reset our creative talent, if you can sneak into your car or unused office for a 20 minute nap during a particularly stressful day, it’ll usually help you feel better. A note on naps though, I don’t recommend less than ten minutes or more than half an hour, otherwise you’ll probably just end up grumpier. Follow Harvard Medical School’s instructions for making the most of it.
Lower your Expectations
Just because you wanted to sew your entire Halloween costume, mop your house from top to bottom, and start a garden this weekend doesn’t mean you should. Sure those may all be things you enjoy, but the point here is to take time for yourself, not run yourself into the ground even more. The only person who has to live up to your expectations after all is you, so give yourself a break every now and again.
Give in to Lounging
Our culture is very anti-lounge. It says you should always be journaling, sketching, networking or otherwise working because those who work hard get ahead. Ignore this. Those who take breaks, who are healthy enough to see what’s working and what’s not, those are the people who get ahead and stay ahead. So if you just want to sit on the couch all day watching soap operas, do it, and don’t you dare feel guilty about it. Even if you’re just starting out in your new creative outlet, don’t be that freshman who burns out halfway through the semester. Take breaks and you’ll be excited well after you’re old hat at it.
What steps do you take to make sure you don’t crash during a stressful time?