I can't help but wonder if the same people who are forcing themselves to go nonstop year round, wreaking havoc on their bodies, brains, and relationships, are the same people forcing their quarantine to be productive with new hobbies and projects and languages to be learned.
Burnout, which was an epidemic in and of itself, is taking on a whole new meaning in the midst of the pandemic. We've uprooted our "normal" burnout lives and added a host of other challenges to the mix. We're no longer just worried about getting food on the table. We're also worried about the dangers of getting it on the table, avoiding contagions, and supporting small businesses all at the same time. And the last few resources we had are now being devoted to the decision fatigue of deciding the right course of action for ourselves, our families, and our communities.
And in this moment, when so many of us want to do the right thing and support each other, it may very well be that the best thing we can do is....nothing.
Not only will the "nothing" that is staying home be truly positive for our communities, it may be that this nothing is the very best thing for ourselves as individuals and families.
Sure, there's lots of organizational psychology and business related data spouting the benefits of breaks: 90% of North American employees reported health, wellness, and performance benefits to taking a lunch hour, it prevents decision fatigue, and enhances creativity, motivation, and novel perspectives. But the real gold here, is that breaks are just plain good for you. They help you to check in with yourself and how you really feel. They offer a chance to release, reset, and renew.
But we need to remember that breaks can be both the means and the ends. That we don't have to pursue breaks because we're reminded that Newton discovered gravity during his quarantine, and bygod we shan't be upstaged! We don't have to pursue them in the hopes that something good will result of the break. The break is good in and of itself.
Breaks may lead to breakthroughs. In fact, they often do. However that shouldn't be the sole point of the break. The break exists to get you what you need: time, space, healing, and recovery. Anything else that comes from the break is simply the cherry on top, the result of your returning to center and to your healed, creative, rested self.
If you're anything like me, the idea of taking a break is terrifying and anxiety inducing. Taking a break is downright hard when you're conditioned to spend every waking moment doing and achieving. If the idea of taking a break is immediately met with "I can't" or fear or anger or grief or confusion, you are not alone. When we take a break, we can be quickly confronted with overwhelming feelings that make taking a break not feel worth the trouble.
I don't have a solution on this one, other than to take it one step and one breath at a time, and know that I'll be doing the same. Take a look at the list below, choose one thing to take a break from, choose a time period, and set an intention. There are a few that may be simpler to try out than others - only you know what is best for you and what will feel like a massive undertaking. Trust yourself.
Whether you experiment with taking a break for three minutes or three days or three months is completely up to you. Start small. See how it feels. Offer yourself compassion if it felt like utter shit - there's a lot of conditioning at work here - and see what comes up for you. You may consider trying incrementally larger breaks over the course of a few days, or not.
Taking a break is countercultural. And it may be 100% necessary to counter the culture of burnout.
BONUS: 15 THINGS IT'S OKAY TO TAKE A BREAK FROM RIGHT NOW:
- social media
- your phone
- the news
- The “Rules”
- being "fine"
- unnecessary housework
- the illusion of control
- being the perfect mom/wife/friend
- expectations (of you, other people, the president)
Sharon Podobnik Peterson challenges the way women think, live, and lead through speaking, leadership coaching, teaching, and serial entrepreneurship. Her self-help and self-care subscription box, blog, and magazine, Go Love Yourself. was named one of the top book subscriptions by Good Morning America, Book Riot, Buzzfeed, and Thrive Global. When she’s not teaching or coaching, she’s exploring the world with her husband, Mark, or reading with her spunky kitty, Annie, in Seattle, Washington