The Paradox of “Breaks”

As I prepared to write this post, I commented to my friend that “I don’t even know what I want to write about…I’m mentally exhausted.” And then, with a self-deprecating tone, followed up with: “…..from break.  I’m mentally exhausted from winter break.  What the fuck.”

It sounds ridiculous.  Yet it’s very true–I have had two glorious weeks off of my routine; gallivanting around during the weekdays, visiting friends, indulging in way too many adult beverages, sleeping in past 6am EVERY day, and generally being the most productively unproductive that I could be each and every day.

I know for an absolute fact, however, that I could not live my Winter Break lifestyle on a regular basis.  Don’t get me wrong, it was amazing to be able to do whatever I wanted for the last fortnight, but there is a part of me that is really excited to get back to my routine.

And the thing is, the very word “break” conotates that it is temporary.  If you are ‘breaking’, you are not fully stopping whatever journey you are on, you are simply taking a pause.

Taking a break from the regular makes you appreciate the day-to-day sameness that much more.  Right now, I am actually looking forward to get my gym time in at 5am every day.  I’m looking forward to my football and kickball games in the evenings.  I’m looking forward to having the school day structure when I can eat and (more importantly) when I can’t.

Before break, the routine was good, but it was getting old, which is why it’s so important to take the chances you get to go completely off-book: it helps you appreciate the playwright’s genius that much more.

It makes me curious, though, why having complete freedom for an extended period of time leaves you feeling crappier than restricted freedom?  Being held to a certain schedule, in theory, would be more aggravating than being able to choose from limitless options every minute of the day, yet I can say with certainty that it is not.

Personally, I think that routine is not the enemy, and is in fact our greatest asset.  I highly doubt any person who has accomplished anything of note wakes up every day and chooses their schedule willy-nilly.  The times that I have been most successful are when I had a strict routine and was actually pretty busy with multiple things in my life.  As the saying goes “if you want something done, give it to a busy person.”

More evidence for this fact comes from this break; I had a list of 3 major things I wanted to cross off my list because I had SO MUCH free time.  Guess how many of them I got done?  If you guessed all of them, you would be off by three. *slow head shaking*

However, I am actually glad that I was unproductive over winter recess, as I feel like it truly allowed me to actually TAKE. A. BREAK. and give my brain a chance to rest.  Now that I am staring down the barrel of a regular, routine-filled week, I am excited to fit in more of my goal-oriented tasks along with my must-do’s; it doesn’t feel forced, and it doesn’t feel overwhelming.  I’m good to go.

On a related note, I’ve also been thinking a lot about resting on a more minor, daily scale.  Purposeful breaks like meditation, reflection, mental preparation.  There are many times when I have 10 or 20 minutes here or there, and instead of viewing it as time I could use productively, I simply scroll through my Instagram, catch up on Facebook, or mindlessly swipe on Bumble.  Those things may be a ‘break’ in theory, and they are definitely not bad some of the time, but they should not be the go-to’s.

It is so important to give our minds a productive respite when we get really busy.  It’s easy to run on ambition for days or even weeks at a time, but to make continual, steady progress it is critical to refuel.

For some reason, however, it is quite hard to take these long and/or short breaks without feeling guilty if you are a person who prides themself on being productive.  It took me almost all of winter break to relax into the idea that it was ok to watch TV for the night, or to sleep in until 8, or to just go on a run instead of driving to the gym.  Yet because I did finally embrace it, I got to actually enjoy it AND I’m excited to start up the grind again.

There is no shame in shoving everything to the back burner for a period of time (key word: ‘period of’, not, ‘the rest of’).  If you get the opportunity to do so, sink into it wholeheartedly.  And if you aren’t lucky enough to be a teacher, make sure that you are taking your vacation days seriously as well as building in other breaks into your week so that you can fully take advantage of the days that you have to be ON with a full throttle.

In a nutshell, milk every part of life for everything it’s got; be FULLY lazy when you can be, be FULLY engaged when you need to be, be FULLY productive when you should be, and be FULLY happy in every moment.  We are only given so many minutes in a day, and while there is no magic ratio of how to spend them on certain tasks, make sure that you get the most out of each one.


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Jay Colby

Life, Inspiration & Motivation

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