Two girls taking a break in the countryside

For those of you who’ve been following my blog, you can see that I haven’t published any new content in the last three weeks. I decided to take a break to make the most of summer and reflect on all that has happened in the past few months. I needed time to think about how I cope with the ever-changing Covid rules, and how that will impact my plans for the upcoming months and years.

After hearing from friends about their experiences with online and face-to-learning, I’m not sure whether I want to go back to university in September, particularly as the risk of another lockdown, quarantine, or travel restrictions seems just as, if not more, pressing than last year.

Apart from this, I’ve just taken on my first real summer job and the start-up I work for has been sold to a major company on the edge of our industry. So, from signing a last-minute contract, to seeing things being turned upside down at work, and planning a small summer getaway, I didn’t feel I could commit to writing high-quality articles for you every week.

Even though turbulent times still lie ahead, I’m glad I decided to take this break. I’m coming back to this blog with new energy to create valuable content for you in the coming months.

In this post, I want to briefly focus on the benefits of breaking with a routine and taking some time away from work or hobbies for your mental and physical health. From next week on, I’ll be back with new content about:

  • How to find your feet in your first real job. This includes finding a graduate job, leaving behind friends, and navigating the uncertainty of a global crisis.
  • Mastering your inner psychology. Reduce stress, develop true confidence, and build resilience in uncertain times.
  • How to develop unconventional solutions to a range of problems.

But for now, let’s look at the benefits of rest breaks.

Benefit 1: A reflective break

We live in what I call a hustle culture: always on the move. Finishing that uni assignment, starting a new project at work, and thinking about what dish we’ll prepare for dinner.

Social media, especially the whole productivity movement doesn’t necessarily help in this. We see posts of our friends working on amazing projects, travelling to great locations. And so, when we step back from all of this action for some much-needed me time, it’s easy to feel guilty.

Or when instead of working on our side hustle, we spend hours browsing the net or chatting with our friends. Basically, it can difficult to do anything that doesn’t fit our mental model of being ‘productive’, and we tell ourselves there is this one thing we need to check off our to-do list before we can allow ourselves to relax. And by the time we finish that, another four or five tasks have come up.  

In the short term, this can help us stay focussed and get a lot done. But in the long run, the hustle culture is unsustainable. Always being on the move takes a massive toll on our mental health. Instead of hitting ‘pause’, we miss the chance to take stock of what we’ve been doing in the last weeks and months.

It is only when we step back, say ‘no’ to many obligations and make time to think things through that we find out if we’re still on the right path. Because often, when we’ve been working hard on a project for months, we caught so caught up in the day-to-day work, that we fail to notice when it’s time to change course. Like when we’ve stopped enjoying the work, and every task feels like a chore.

That’s when it’s time to ask the tough questions.

For example:

  • Can I cope with another year of remote study? Or shall I break with the university system and get out in the real world?
  • Shall I continue conforming to people’s expectations? Or do I need to cut my losses when friends, family and co-workers have a hard time respecting my decisions?
  • Do I want to live in a state of constant worry? Or am I ready to build a sustainable baseline or my life?

These are some of the questions that I’ve been asking recently. I don’t have all the answers yet. But thinking about my priorities will hopefully move me closer to the right course of action, and let me live a life of no regret in sync with my values.

Benefit 2: Inspiration and a new perspective

A quick summer getaway and 3-week blogging break gave me a fresh perspective on the world. For months, I’d lived mostly in my hometown, venturing beyond its borders only for an occasional bike ride in the countryside.

Being in a different place for a week showed me how much the world changed in the past two years. It also gave me a radically different outlook on the world than the one I’d garnered through social media.

Meeting new people opened my mind to unconventional opportunities and provided food for thought for this blog.

I’ve met people from all walks of life, and seen how differently young and old cope with the current challenges. But it was also interesting to see some of the commonalities. For example, almost every single person that I met asked me: “Are you vaccinated yet?”

Just for the fun of it, I decided to give people different answers, so I could see how they react. I’ve tried everything from a simple yes or no, to some more detailed replies. And it was fascinating to see that some people wanted to force their view upon me. Meanwhile, others seemed truly interested in my motivation. And most people were very respectful of my choice (even when it was different from theirs).

I’ll write more about conformity, groupthink and going against the grain in a future blog post, but for now, a nice way to figure out how respectful someone is, is by giving them a response that opposes their views and seeing how they react. For example:

  • “Yes, I think it’s very important to get the vaccine.”
  • “Yes. I want to protect myself and others.”
  • “Yes, I want my freedoms back. And it seems like the vaccine is the only way to get them.”
  • “No, not yet. I’ve booked an appointment for next week.”
  • “No, I can’t the vaccine due to an underlying health issue.”
  • “No, one of my friends got the vaccine. They had such a bad reaction that they had to be treated in hospital. I don’t want the same thing to happen to me.”
  • “No, I don’t trust the government.”

Do let me know how people respond by sharing your experience in the comments.

Living in the present moment

I want to finish this post by saying that a break can also be an opportunity to enjoy the present moment. Whether you like to watching the sunset across the ocean, playing midget-golf with a group of friends, or dining in one of Italy’s best pasta restaurants.

Being present is an extremely precious skill in a world that for many people is no more than the bubble of social media. Presence lets you cherish each unique experience in your life, and allows you to fully accept and embrace what is.

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