I Like My Breaks, My Little Bit of Time for Myself

February 4, 2018

Our breaks, our “parentheses” of loneliness, silence and sensory disconnection are like nutrients for our hearts and brains.

It’s a way to restart and become aware of another type of deeper perception. The one that comes from within us and that restores balance, mental peace and well-being.

Today we’ll reflect on the concept of “breaks”.

How do we define them? If we were to ask any random person, they would probably tell us they have breaks in their daily life. They have a break when they take the train or bus and take the opportunity to read. When they leave the office for lunch and come back 30 to 60 minutes later. Or maybe when they go to the gym.

Now, are these examples really what we should consider “breaks”? The answer is no.

In fact, these situations could be categorized as what is now known as “active breaks.” That is, activities where one may not be working, but the mind and body are “active”.

Real breaks are when we’re truly able to disconnect from our environments, obligations and — most of all — the nonstop flow of our thoughts. And they’re times we give ourselves. There are no pressures or noise or conversations we don’t want. Nor is there waiting or demands or to-do’s, nobody to please…

 

Taking breaks: coffee on a rainy day

Why it’s so hard for us to take real breaks in our daily life

Let’s admit it. Breaks may mean doing nothing, and for many of us doing nothing is practically sacrilege in a world where “time is money”.

Slowing down, stopping the hands of time and choosing to set aside an hour for ourselves is not easy. Thus, something as simple as closing the doors to others’ expectations and limiting ourselves to “just be” is not something we’re used to.

Others have convinced us that breaks are a privilege, not a right. Someone once told us that and that’s also what we pass down generation after generation.

Actually, we see it every day. When our children come home from school we have to leaf through their agendas full of to-do’s. But before that they have extracurriculars, music lessons, sports, and perhaps even visits to the educational psychologist to treat their dyslexia or hyperactivity.

Sadly taking a break to play or just to do nothing is now a privilege for kids, not a right anymore. They only have access to it if they behave well, if they do their chores beforehand. All this is reasonable, of course, because each one of us has our obligations.

However, it’s not hard to see how the following happens as we get into adulthood: we’re unable to enjoy real breaks …

 

 

overworked, stressed office worker at his laptop with coffee

 

Why is it so hard to convince ourselves that it’s our right? That leaving the rest of the world in the waiting room so we can find ourselves again isn’t wrong, but healthy?

So many of us have trouble taking breaks. We…

  • Feel guilty. What will my friends or family think of me if I say no, that I’d prefer to be alone?
  • Prioritize others’ expectations.
  • Think distorted or dysfunctional thoughts. For example, breaks mean doing nothing, being lazy…
  • Take our health for granted. We tell ourselves that everything’s fine, we don’t need rest. We think we have more to give when in fact we’re burning out.

Say yes to one-hour daily breaks

Daniel Goleman said in his book “Focus” that the ability to take breaks is vital to regaining control of our attention. Only then do we stop acting impulsively and automatically, as if we weren’t masters of our own lives. Taking the first step towards breaks is important for our well-being, and it’s better for us than we ever thought.

Let’s look at a few here:

  • Breaks activate our lateral prefrontal cortex more intensely. When we do manage to spend 30 to 60 minutes relaxing, this part of the brain will help us see things more rationally and logically. We get a more balanced perspective.
  • It’s an area that’s also involved in the control of emotional responses, such as fear or anxiety. In addition, automatic thoughts slow down to help us be more present.
  • In turn, we’ll also be able to enhance another very valuable brain structure: the medial prefrontal cortex. Neurologists define it as the “self-center.” In other words, it’s where information related to our physical and emotional state is processed. We reflect on our relationships, happiness, what we like or dislike, etc.

 

 

meditation and the brain

In conclusion, give yourself a break every day. Put your phone on silent, tell people you’re taking time out for yourself and you’re choosing to just feel and “be,” just for a moment.

Remember this will not make you a less valuable or productive person. On the contrary, you’ll see improvements in your health and emotional strength. You’ll grow.

At the end of the day, life and nature take their time, they take breaks. The clouds stay still, the seas have their moments of calm and the moon has its times of observation and reflection …