The Importance of Breaks

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It’s been a very busy time at work for me lately, and that leads to an internal pressure to keep up with everything and not let myself get behind or have to ask for support to complete my work.  This is problematic in itself, that I am driven to appear perfect and able to keep up even when I can’t.  That’s something I’m working on.  And one way I’m doing that involves breaks.

I am fortunate in that I work at a university with a culture that generally supports work/life balance.  I also work in a department full of amazing people that’s housed under a department run by an amazing dean who really cares about how we’re doing.  This means that I’m discouraged from working late, working through lunch, or generally over-working myself.  They want me to have time to rest and recharge.

I’ve been either skipping my lunch break or taking a much shorter one the past couple weeks as I try to stay on top of everything during my busiest time of year.  Yes, it’s weird for a university employee to be busiest over the summer, but my role is a bit backward that way.  I have been eating lunch, my body wouldn’t let me get away with skipping meals, but I haven’t been taking that time to step away from work and think about something else for a while like I usually do.

Breaks are important for your brain.  And not just long ones like your lunch break or not thinking about work overnight.  There’s science to support that small breaks, like watching a funny cat video or taking a short walk, are good for your brain.  A lot of the advice I get as a writer about how to get past a block involves a short break like a snack or a walk.

With it being Camp NaNoWriMo this month, and my goal to finish the re-write of book two in my Swords and Shields series, I should be taking the time I get for lunch to write.  I’m going to try to be much more intentional about that this coming week.  Today I’m going to take my lunch break, and make sure I’m not pulling any extra time for the week.  I’m going to get caught up on the one item that effects people other than me, and then I’m going to work really hard not to stress about the rest.

Not stressing is a skill I’m still developing.  The pressure to work hard, probably harder than is healthy, that permeates the working world in the US is hard to escape and hard to overcome.  I have a week-long vacation coming up that will hopefully help with that.  In the meantime, I just need to remember to take my breaks where I can, whether it’s my lunch break or a couple minutes to watch a video or read an article between work tasks.

Do you have any strategies for making sure you’re taking the breaks you need?  Or generally how to keep your usual work/life balance when things get busy?

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