Does anyone find it ironic that nowadays we have to be conscious of taking a break? If you don’t, I admire you! I have to make sure to keep relaxation in mind so that I don’t overwork. See, I have a problem; I’m a workaholic when I’m passionate about something and my writing fits that category. My mind never stops running for ideas, things needed to be done, and planning for the future. “It’s a gift and curse,” as a favorite TV character says (anyone else love Monk?). This part of my personality allows for me to accomplish a large amount. It allows me to have success in my life, to never stop until I reach my goal…but it also tires me out at times. Finding a balance is important. I know this, but putting it into action can be challenging at times.
Recently I took my birthday week off because my husband and I planned to go on a vacation. Well, as you all know, that wasn’t a possibility this summer, so I decided to have a staycation. Although I have been working from home for my day job for the last 4 months, I knew it would feel different to actually be off the clock, even when in the same location. Somehow being home for work, where I don’t have to commute two hours a day, still doesn’t mean I can get everything done that is on my mental to-do list. Yeah, that’s because that list is endless and unrealistic. I know that yet still try time after time. Anyway, I told myself that week I would relax, breathe, chill out. Putting it into action was harder than I thought.
I did a good job overall with daily leisure. I saw a couple friends (safely of course), I drew and painted, cooked, read some books, played my ukulele, watched TV, and enjoyed swimming. But you know what’s coming…oh yes, I did a little author work as well. Of course I was interacting on my social media daily, but I don’t count that because it’s fun (and needed, yes). But, how could I have a week off and not do some of my author related tasks? That’s just ridiculous. I ended up starting my second novel. Yup, I spent a day getting my outline ready, formatting, and actually writing the first few pages. And you know what? It felt good! I had a weight lifted off of my mind by starting it and also had fun writing. That has to be acceptable, right?
I have to admit, though, I felt guilt either way, so I went ahead and was productive. At least that way I moved forward on my goals. Although I did all those fun and relaxing activities, I had that little voice in the back of my head telling me “Shouldn’t you be doing something writing related?” I had to keep reminding myself that it was vacation for me. I had to fight against my workaholic spirit to free myself to engage in the fun activities. And I did, except for that one day. Hey, I think that’s pretty good and will give myself a pat on the back, thank you very much.
Who else experiences this push and pull of the guilt? I think a lot of us feel it, especially in this unique year. So, does taking a break require a special skill set? Is there an actual art to it? I’m an artist so that should come easy to me. There is that word again, though; should. I try not to use it as much as possible because I’ve learned it creates more guilt. I help my therapy clients with avoiding that mindset as well, but it’s hard to apply to myself sometimes.
Back to the art of it, though. Maybe the art is simply having a balance. Maybe it’s just knowing when I am at risk of being drained. Burning out will be counterproductive in the end, so I don’t want to reach that place. Living where I can work and relax must be the way to go. Instead of push, push, push, maybe I need reminders to pause, pause, pause. Balance for the opposite ends of the spectrum is needed. I need to live in the gray and not the black or white, so to speak. That’s a fact. I know this, but sometimes my overachiever spirit tries to quiet the thought.
Okay, here’s the plan to lessen guilt by taking breaks routinely. I have a few realistic (key word for me) author tasks to complete each week, so this week I started to make a list of them. Checking them off as I finish them feels satisfying, which is a bonus to the completion of the actual task. I am making sure to also have a choice of 2-3 hobby related activities I can choose from each weeknight and on weekends. I work well with structure, but this is just enough to feel like I accomplish something and also hold myself accountable for down time. I’ve accepted that I require mental organization for even down time. I’m not a person who can “just relax.” My relaxing requires my mind to be as free as possible from the to-do activities, so having a plan is key. I work well with limits and rules., even when I make them for myself.
Look, there is always more to do. There is always a way to do better and be better in any area of life. That opportunity excites me, but I need to pace myself, my gosh. I do believe things come when the time is right, so it will just happen when meant to be anyway. What is in my control is taking care of myself, which means rest. That is how I will be my best for myself and everyone else.
Your art of taking a break may look different than mine, but that doesn’t mean either of us are wrong. I love learning from others, so always feel free to tell me how you do with the balance of work and play. Let’s all take care of ourselves during this year especially. It’s a great lesson to learn for the rest of our lives.
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