How False Thinking Keeps You From Taking Breaks
He That Can Take Rest is Greater Than He That Can Take Cities – Benjamin Franklin
Most of us know, on an intellectual level, that we need to take breaks for our wellbeing. But, most of us rarely apply this knowledge. The reason for this is usually because of the clever lies our minds tell us about breaks not being important.
One of the biggest lies we tell ourselves about breaks is that we don’t have enough time for them. ‘There are not enough hours in the day, and I have to get everything done.’ This pressure to ‘get everything done’ is a huge factor contributing to our false thinking. Somehow, we convince ourselves that if all our tasks are not accomplished in a given day, then our entire lives will collapse. In reality, however, when we look at the big picture, we see that our to-do items are not as important as they seem and that no one’s lives will really be that affected (including our own) if they are left undone, or at least pushed back another day or two.
If we are honest, the drive to skip breaks and focus on getting everything done is almost always about our own egos – not about a lack of time. Many of us enjoy feeling like martyrs who need to consistently suffer and die out in the field of battle. It makes us feel important. It makes us feel Heroic. It makes us feel like saviours. Unfortunately, this never translates into reality. In the eyes of those around us, working tirelessly hardly ever gets noticed, never makes us heroes, and never saves anyone from anything. On the contrary, we become both a nuisance and a burden to ourselves, as well as to other people.
Predictably, all the pressure we place on ourselves to get things done eventually ends up extinguishing all the good things we experience within: peace, contentment, joy, and love. We begin to feel uncomfortable in our own skin. We become irritable, stressed, annoyed and bored. Unavoidably, our inner state then overflows outwards. We grow a repulsion towards others, seeing them as a threat, a hindrance, and our personal enemy. And, in its worst expression, we even set ourselves against life itself, mistakenly believing that some unseen power or force is constantly trying to bring about our failure and misery.
Another lie we often fall for is that continual activity nurtures our soul and makes us feel alive. We tell ourselves that we are happy and fulfilled precisely because we have been so ‘productive.’ As attractive as it might seem, this way of thinking is a complete illusion. The truth is that we experience wellbeing only when we take time to relax, do nothing, and simply recharge at certain points throughout the day.
I often have to remind myself of the mantra that ‘less is more’ when I feel overwhelmed and exhausted during the week. At these times, I reflect on previous experiences and remember that I was more fulfilled when I did less with a lot of passion, creativity, and love than when I did a lot with stress, exhaustion and irritation.
An equally powerful lie that can seduce us is the one that says we will fall behind in the ‘race of life’ if we are not constantly being active. I’m not sure that any of us fully understands the true nature of this race – it’s competitors, its goals, its rewards, etc. But, we all seem to feel like there is definitely a race going on in this life and that we must participate in it by continually doing, and, more often, by continually outdoing.
To help expose the illusions associated with this ‘race,’ I find it helpful to stop from time to time throughout the day and take stock of what I really value. Deep down in my heart, I don’t really care about winning the race, let alone even entering it. What I really care about is peace and contentment, spending time with my family, and giving and receiving love.
To overcome all of these seductive lies, and to take care of ourselves properly, we would do well to start prioritizing breaks in our daily lives. The best way of doing this is to begin scheduling downtime in the same way that we schedule other essentials, such as meals, sleep, and hygiene. Taking breaks has to become just as important as these other necessities. They need to be at the top of our to-do lists, as well as in our hearts. The truth of the matter is that, until breaks become a consistent priority in our lives, we will constantly find ourselves caught up in the web of lies and activities that lead to nothing but stress, exhaustion, disappointment and heartache.