What makes a good break


January 2, 2023

The title of this blog post refers to something that I’ve been thinking about a lot recently – how important it is to take breaks and what a good break truly means. As a very type a, goal-driven person I used to scoff at the idea of taking breaks, surely that just means that you’re not dedicated enough to finish what you started or to have enough determination to carry on? But, as I’ve grown up, I’ve come to realize just how important it’s been for me to take breaks and what an actual break really consists of.

I currently have around a week left of my winter break before I head into the Spring Semester and this is the first time in ages that I think I’ve taken a proper break. I had a couple weeks without classes here and there but for the most part, since last January I’ve been in school or working an internship and haven’t had a good amount of time where I don’t really have any deadlines or looming to do lists. The past week, between Christmas and New Years where no one was online has been a good reminder to me of what a good break can do.

So, here are a few things that I’ve learned about taking breaks.

This is just a personal opinion, but I don’t think that taking a break is solely about unplugging from school or work; I think that’s a key part of it but I think it’s also about giving you time to just do whatever you want. Whether that’s squeezing in an hour of work in a day and then spending the day doing whatever else you want, the key thing is that you have the choice over what you spend your time doing. In the past, I think I’ve just thought of a break as any period of time where I’m not at school, however, the reality is that even when I’m not in class there are all kinds of tasks to do whether they are academic related or other miscellaneous errands. I feel like the time that we actually take to unplug from work or school always gets filled with all sorts of obligations, some of which we want to do, but a lot that we also wouldn’t spend our time on out of choice.

I think that taking a true break means having the autonomy to actually choose what you want to spend your time doing. For me, that means drinking three matcha lattes a day, doing a little schoolwork, and lounging around reading books most of the day. For you, that might mean going out every night and sleeping in late each morning. Either is fine but the common denominator is that you have the autonomy to choose to do that.

I’ve also realized that cultivating a sustainable lifestyle that allows you to take a break doesn’t mean that you have to change your schedule too drastically. In my day-to-day schedule during semester time I make time to do things I enjoy like going for a run and cooking dinner. If we imagine our typical day as being divided into blocks of time for work and leisure, I think that taking a healthy break just means expanding that leisure block and squeezing that work block smaller. I think that finding that sweet spot of living a healthy work-life balance doesn’t come from flip flopping between all work during the semester and all play during the holidays, but instead from adjustments in the blocks here and there. I think that visualizing the leisure box as growing larger while the work box grows smaller is key to building a sustainable routine instead of breaking it down completely each time you start a new semester or break.

I think this visualization of interconnected blocks of leisure and work time means that it’s easier to take small breaks here and there when you have a day or a long weekend off. I think that it can help with the feeling of guilt of taking a break that we often experience. I always have a problem feeling like I should take a break and feeling guilty for not doing anything, however, when we view work and leisure time as interconnected blocks I think that it’s easier to combat that sense of guilt. For example, I had finals week right before winter break started and I know that during that week my days were mostly taken up by the work block and had a much smaller leisure block, therefore when that completely flipped when the break started I feel less guilty about not doing anything. I’m a visual thinker so maybe that makes a lot more sense for me, but I hope I explained it well!

In the past I might have looked at this post and thought, what a load of waffle. But, I really do think that having the ability to take a break is so integral to taking care of yourself and setting yourself up for success during those times when you’re working hard. So here’s some food for thought! Let me know in the comments section what you think.

See you next week,

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