What does it mean to take a break?

taking a break

Many people live their lives holding their breath. Waiting for the next "break" to roll around so that they can sit for a moment. Breathe for a moment. Look around for a moment. Experience the moment. Sometimes the reality of our self-built chaos can sneak up on us while we are off busy writing our infinite to-do lists. You know the list that you have stashed away somewhere that you will get to "when you have time"? That one.

I love lists. But what I don't love is that they never end. Lately, I notice myself pulling out my "life list" more and more frequently. All the things that pass through my mind get quickly packaged up into a neat little line on my to-do list. And that makes me feel pretty accomplished. For a bit. Until I realize that my list has become as long as an ancient scroll. 

What is a break? Whether you're studying for an exam or practicing for a sporting event, breaks are a natural and necessary component of the process. It's said that people who take breaks excel at their task more than those who don't. I am sure there have been times in your life when you didn't take a break, and then paid for it later. In my mind, breaks should be as essential as sleeping. Sleeping in itself is a break. It’s a time when your body and mind rest and sort out their inner workings so that you are prepared to work at your best the next day. If taking breaks is so naturally ingrained in us, how come it is difficult then to actually take a break when we are given one?

Think about the last time you took a break, whether it was for fifteen minutes between work engagements or a five day vacation. Wherever you were, were you really taking a break? I mean really? As in: not mulling over the work you still have to do nor having some major FOMO over not joining your friends for a coffee? If you answered yes, then *bow down*... you must teach me your ways. If you answered no, then join the club. 

To me, a break means listening to your heart. What does it really want? Is it yearning for some peace? Does it want to continue working on that project? Do you want to snuggle in a corner with a good book or a good show? Do you need to go outside and breathe? Do you need nourishment? It’s as simple as that. What do you really, truly want? Right this moment? Taking time to check in with yourself is the MOST valuable tool you will ever have. 

Next time you are "on a break", stop and think for a moment. What is it you actually really truly want right now? Whatever that is, do it. There are so many times I notice my mind and body craving a break, yet I toss the notion aside or worse: I take a pretend break. School breaks were always the first thing I scheduled into my calendar when we would get our newest term schedule. It was my little tradition when I first moved across the country for university because it meant I had something to work towards. Something to look forward to. A time when I got to see my friends and family. Over the years, life has gotten so busy that these breaks have literally become my beacon of light. The last break we had from school was one I was particularly aching for. In my heart I knew this was because each and every fiber of my being was exhausted - I hadn't had a chance to relax in ages. In my mind I knew it was because I really had some catching up to do on schoolwork. I battled with how I could make the best plan to be as productive as possible, while secretly hoping for a little rest. When the break rolled around, I flew back home to see my family. I walked into my old room and the sudden familiarity of home and the smell of nostalgia wrapped me in like a giant hug. And in that moment, I decided that this was the break when I was really just going to take a break. And almost instantly... I could breathe again. And guess what? I barely looked at my work. And I don't regret a moment of it. If I had continued my inner battle between getting work done and resting all week, then my break would have been no different than any other ol' school day. So, I was pretty darn proud of myself for that.

I challenge you all to try this on your next break, whatever the amount of time is - put a little bit of thought into it rather than making it a mindless break that does in fact make you mind-less. You are in charge of your break. You have the ability to make it whatever you want it to be, rather than what you think it should be. My advice as always is: just go and do it.

Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes... including you.
— Anne Lamott