Do you know that feeling of calm and relaxation you get while on vacation, and how focused you feel when you return to work after a week off with no cares in the world? Do you wonder how can I feel like that more often? The answer is taking breaks, developing a self-care routine, and using those days off when you need them.

A topic I talk about with client’s week after week is the idea of self-care, down time, and taking a break. It seems society has programmed most of us to measure our self-worth by our productivity (particularly productivity that other people can see, and approve of). Have you ever heard the phrases “if there’s time to lean, there’s time to clean”, “so much to do so little time” “is that ALL you did today?” or “you can sleep when your dead”? These are all examples of ways society has taught us that we are not as valued if we are not conforming to the standard of productivity that has been set. These statements and ideas can lead to feelings of guilt, selfishness, and shame when someone tries to take a break, which will have an overall impact on someone’s mood and mental health.

What if I told you resting, taking breaks and down time ARE productive, and are often referred to as self care- it has a positive impact on your mental health, decreases overall stress levels, prevents burn out at work, and improves overall mood and emotional regulation. Taking a few moments away from what we are doing allows our brain time to think of situations differently, sort out important tasks, and reset. You might return to your work desk with a new idea, or be able to parent with more patience.

Self-Care/ breaks can be divided into several categories. Emotional Self-Care or taking time to process our emotions, and regain control of them. Some ideas are: Journaling, going to therapy, and meditation. Physical Self- Care or taking care of your physical needs, and enhancing your physical well-being. Some examples are: taking a walk, taking a nap, or taking a long shower/bath. This also includes taking time to eat throughout the day—away from your desk or daily tasks! Mental Self-Care or activities that can engage your mind or broaden your perspective. Some examples are: listening to a podcast, reading or going to a museum. Social Self-Care or actively engaging in relationships with others. Some examples are: calling a family member or friend, making plans with a friend, or spending quality time with your significant other. Spiritual Self-Care or engaging in activities that help you connect with your soul. Some examples are: spending time in nature, yoga, and volunteering for a cause that is meaningful to you. Practical Self Care or every day ways of reducing stress. Some examples are: meal prepping, tidying up your home or work space and deleting emails. Finally, professional Self-Care or activities that help you feel fulfilled in your career. Some examples are: setting good work/life boundaries, taking mental health or sick days when you need to, and participating in ongoing education.

Building time into your week to engage in self care from each of these categories will contribute to improved productivity, and fulfillment. By having a solid self-care routine we can avoid getting to a place of feeling burnt out and overwhelmed. To do this, we need to work on changing our own, and others mind set around taking breaks. To combat the statements and ideals shared through society and rid ourselves of the guilt that is often associated with taking a break, we need to replace the negative statements with more positive ones. Try saying to yourself, family and friends “you deserve a some you time”, “I admire how rested and stress free you are after taking time for yourself”, “your worth is not defined by anyone else’s definition of productivity.”

I am giving you permission to take more breaks, and engage in more self-care and relaxation. I hope you can grant yourself that permission as well. You just might be surprised at how much easier work and life tasks can be when your body and mind are fully charged, after all we wouldn’t expect our phones to do a weeks’ worth of work on fifteen percent battery.

“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you” – Anne Lamott

“The best time to relax and take a break is when you don’t have time for it.” – Steven Aitchison