I’m not great at taking breaks.
For one thing, I view the concept of “doing nothing” as an impossibility. There is no such thing as nothing. If you are watching tv, or scrolling on your phone, or staring at the ceiling, you are doing something. It may be nothing of importance, but it is still something.
So figuring out what to do during times of rest is often baffling, thus resulting in my restless doing of something.
Furthermore, I am a planner.
I create schedules for myself and I stick to them (to the best of my ability). Flexible is not a word I use to describe myself, though it’s something I admire in others and try to practice.
That said, when it comes to resting and breaks, I don’t take them when I need them. Instead, I take them when I plan for them… which is very different. It’s like eating pizza next Tuesday because I earmarked that day as pizza-day, as opposed to eating the pizza that sounds so good right this moment.
It’s fine, but it misses the point.
I’ve taken vacations when I was in the zone with work. And I’ve pushed through hard times when I really could have used a vacation. It’s backward.
Now, in the case of travel, that’s normally booked well ahead of time, so it’s more a matter of getting lucky with my mental state. But with small breaks? I can be doing a lot better with them. Hence, this post.
I’m not here to scold or judge or even give advice. Rather, this post reflects my past and present way of thinking about rest. Make of it what you will.
Pushing when I shouldn’t
The problem with planning for rest, in my case, is that I don’t always need the break that I plan for. In fact, I may be well-rested, feeling good, and full of energy. I don’t need a nap. Yet, I planned for a nap so I’ll feel like I’m doing myself a disservice if I don’t take one.
But… I don’t need it.
Then there are days where I could really use some extra sleep but feel guilty for closing my eyes for a couple minutes. Again, it’s backward.
I find it challenging to recognize the line between being lazy/procrastinating and actually needing rest. And so, I assume it’s the former and push on. Yet, that often leads me to being more tired, which leads me to think I’m being even lazier, thus causing me to push even further.
Until it’s obvious that I’m not being lazy, I’m actually very tired and require a serious break.
Scheduled cheat day
My strategy needs to change.
While it’s good that I do take some form of a break, it’s bad in that I don’t take it when I need it.
Look at last night for instance. I was craving sweets. But one of my current goals is to consume less than ten grams of net carbohydrates a day, six days a week. And I wasn’t planning on using my day off for carbs until the weekend.
So, I pushed through, opting for chicken sausage instead. But you and I both know that it wasn’t satisfying.
I woke up this morning tired, irritable, and a bit frustrated. I felt deprived.
Then it donned on me. I should take a break when it feels like the right moment, not when it’s scheduled.
I’ve been applying that idea with my sleep goal recently and it’s proven to be refreshing. Why not try it with my nutrition goal? Instead of waiting for the weekend, at a time when I may not be struggling, I should take a break today.
I should eat those sweets now as I crave them. Thus, hopefully, preventing massive binges or breakdowns in the future.
Happy with my decision
This is a new strategy for me – breaking spontaneously instead of as scheduled – and I’m interested to see the results. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. All I know is that I enjoyed pancakes this morning and have been in a good mood since.
The sun is shining, the weather is nice, I feel content. I’m happy that I took a break today. Maybe I’ll go to the beach this afternoon.
It’s going to be a good day. All because I took a break when I needed it.
A break-based experiment
Do you need a break? How do you know? And what will you do during it?
I know I said I wasn’t going to give advice in this post, so how about this. Since the concept of spontaneous breaking is new to me, let’s do an experiment together. I’m testing it out right now. If you need one, take one too and let me know how it goes.
Here’s my email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Give me an update! I always respond back.