Do You Need A Break?
Your computer's frozen. You try clicking around—nothing. The screen hasn't responded for a full 5 minutes. What's your first line of defense? Simply turn it off, and then turn it back on again. But of course! This simple yet somehow extremely effective trick is tech support 101.
So, why wouldn't the same treatment work for people? In a sense, aren't our brains kind of like computers?
If you're curious why rebooting a computer is so effective, it helps to understand what's going on under the hood. Usually, the reason you see a spinning wheel of death or an unresponsive screen on your computer is because something behind the scenes has gone awry. Maybe there's not enough memory, or something's stuck in a loop, or there's too many energy-intensive things happening simultaneously that it simply can't process it all.
Pretty similar to what happens in our brains, huh?
The good news is that simply turning the thing off and turning it back on can resolve a majority of issues. By giving your computer a break, you give it the chance to start anew. It's a wonderful metaphor for the benefits of giving ourselves a break, too.
In this article, I'll be covering why hitting the reset button might be just the thing you need to get back to operating smoothly.
Is it time for a break?
While I'll always contend that consistent action over time adds up to big results, sometimes pushing the pause button can result in better outcomes in the long run.
Last month, I took a pause from hosting a monthly networking event that Supporti organizes for free. Don't get me wrong—this is one my favorite monthly events to attend, and I love meeting members of Supporti's community.
That said, I took a break in hosting this event for a number of reasons: I had some personal things going on and simply did not have the time, plus it was more important for me to focus on the app development, which is the business's main focus.
But above all else, I decided to take a break for my own mental well-being.
Recently, a community that I'm a part of, called Authen-tech, discussed some of the emotional and mental struggles that startup founders face. At one point, we discussed what self-care actually is.
There are plenty of products and services marketing "feel-good" experiences for self care: bubble baths, herbal tea, vacations, etc. Nothing wrong with that! But there isn't enough chamomile in the world that can fix a broken business model—and the stress that comes with that.
Sometimes the only way to deal with huge life stressors is to start saying no.
What does that look like? It looks like saying no to the things that add to your plate. Or it looks like saying no to the cool opportunity that *might* get you closer to your career goal. It could be saying no to engaging on social media because seeing a curated highlight reel of everyone else's lives can make you feel like you aren't enough.
Taking a break doesn't mean you're never coming back. It might. Or it might mean that next month, you'll have a ton of energy and fresh ideas to bring to the table because instead of doing something because you HAD to, you're doing it because you WANT to.
Signs you need a break
In the past year and a half of running Supporti, I'm fascinated and encouraged by the prospect of seeing early customers return after taking a break from the app.
Admittedly, I'd prefer if everyone subscribed year-round, had an accountability partner for 365 days of the year and never left. But the next best thing is having customers come back after taking a break. When they're ready to come back, we'll be there waiting.
So, why do people take a break in the first place?
Maybe they achieved a goal milestone and want to pause while they plan their next SMART goal.
Maybe something came up in their personal life and their goal of writing a novel had to take the backseat for a minute.
Or maybe they lost motivation toward their goal.
If you're like me, it's hard to admit to others, and particularly yourself, that you aren't feeling motivated anymore. This become especially difficult once you've made a commitment to other people and don't want to let them down.
When you put in the work every single day towards a goal that won't pay off for a while, it can be tiring. You might start to question whether you truly want that goal in the first place.
But that's okay! Questioning is never a bad thing. And in fact, taking a break to reflect on whether you want the ultimate prize can be the key to reviving your motivation.
In fact, one way that I can tell if I've set the right goal is if I take a break and realize that I miss the work. That speed networking event I mentioned earlier is a great example. I missed the connections that I made one morning every month for the past few months. I loved the energy of meeting new, friendly strangers, which has been especially important during the pandemic.
If you take a break from something and you realize that you miss it, you begin to see the value it adds to your life. On the other hand, if you take a break and the thought of going back to the thing fills you with dread, that's also telling you something: it might be time to pivot.
Why is it so hard to take a break?
A lot of people avoid taking breaks because of fear. That's right—taking a break is freaking scary! The fear can take a few different forms. For example...
Fear of being perceived as lazy. Whether you're worried about what others will think of you, or whether you yourself believe that breaks are for lazy people, try to evaluate whether these beliefs are accurate. And even if deep down you DO believe that taking a break means that you're lazy, so what? Does being a little lazy make you a terrible person? Or does it make you, ya know, human? It may be time to push your ego aside, embrace your humanity, and prioritize your own self-care.
Fear of failure. Does taking a break feel like admitting defeat? Consider breaking through perfectionist tendencies by asking yourself whether five years from now this break will even matter. Is it possible to come back from a little time away? The answer is often yes. You are strong and capable. You can come back from this break and still achieve your goals.
Fear of lost momentum. If you're a tenacious person who thrives on the energy of going nonstop, taking a break risks losing momentum. It can be super uncomfortable. There's a risk that taking a break means you need to start back at the beginning, or that you never restart, period. One thing you can try to address the lost momentum is to plan check-ins during the break where you assess whether it's time to go back. Another option is to take a partial break instead of a complete pause. You could scale back to 50%, which still gives yourself a break, but lets you keep some of that good momentum going.
Fear of missing out. There's constant pressure to be productive. Time away means time not spent working on your goals. But instead of focusing on what you're missing, try reframing your perspective by considering what you're gaining from taking a break: mental clarity.
If the idea of a break is uncomfortable for you, explore what beliefs you hold around taking breaks and challenge some of your own views.
How breaks can be beneficial
If you need evidence of how taking a break can be beneficial, simply look to some culture icons who took some time off and came back stronger: Bon Jovi, Michael Jordan, Robert Downey Jr., Barbara Streisand...
Breaks offer quite a few advantages, namely:
The chance to reflect. When you stop moving, you have a chance to take a quick pulse on how things are going. Essentially, you can stop and smell the roses. This can be so helpful in reminding yourself how far you've come, which builds confidence. It's also a splendid way to strengthen your connection with yourself.
The opportunity to reset. Based on what you notice from your reflection, you have an opportunity to switch up and re-calibrate where you're going and what you'd like to do differently to make sure that you're on the right path. Sometimes our goals change, and that's okay. It may take a break for us to see it.
Space for new ideas. You know how sometimes the best ideas come to you while you're in the shower? Well for many of us, it's the one place where we're alone without distractions: no news, no email, no social media, no texts. The freedom of taking a few moments away from a problem can widen our perspective. It can bring new ideas to the surface that we might not have otherwise recognized. We can sense our own intuition when our attention isn't completely focused on the screen in front of us.
Better feelings. When you commit to taking a break, whether it's from work, a workout routine, or a personal project, you release the pressure you put on yourself to act. That pressure can start to build resentment. Even for personal projects, you may feel like you HAVE to do the thing that you started doing because you WANTED to. When you give yourself a break, you prevent resentment from sneaking in. Instead, you can come back when you're ready and willing. Now that's motivating!
If you've been feeling uninspired, overworked, in a funk, and spinning your wheels, imagine that you're that computer that's "stuck." Try hitting the reset button.
Where might you need to show yourself some grace by pressing pause?