Opinion and Editorial

Why it is important to know the real meaning of taking a break

Asha Iyer Kumar
Filed on August 15, 2021
AP file

If we don’t give ourselves a chance to jump out at the right time, we will end up getting gradually cooked in the stew of our own recipe.

The whole of Europe is going on their famed summer vacation and the newbie entrepreneur in my house is chafed. Three weeks is a long time to remain shut and affect his business, he avers. To him it is a sacrilege to remain zoned out of work for so long.

I, on the other hand, am sinking in self-pity, wondering when I would get the luxury of putting my feet up and having an unhurried coffee with a book in hand. I am envious of the Europeans, but at the same time I realise that taking a break is not a trait that we practise very well. Especially the kind of break where life centres around just being at ease and living it out. We are not used to it. And I notice that I have a whole world for company, except Europe, perhaps.

Have you heard the fable of the frog that slowly boiled itself to death? Admit it or not, we closely approximate the frog. A majority of us don’t have the slightest inkling of how we are slowly perishing in the name of compulsion and obligation. We have normalised the phenomenon of ‘burn-out’ so much that like the frog, we believe and accept with resignation that ‘such is life’.

I hear you. I understand how being caught up in the scramble to earn, to survive, to sustain a livelihood, it is well-nigh impossible for us to step off the roller coaster. But step off, we must. This is a counsel I am giving to you as earnestly as I am telling it to myself.

I have read several pieces of writing that advise practical methods to avoid burn-outs. But all of them only suggest a list of ‘things to do’ like a set of arbitrary exercises, which we cannot follow through because we don’t have the ‘pause’ mindset. What is therefore needed is for us to first take cognizance of ‘our inability to ease off’ as a genuine predicament.

Getting our downtime doesn’t mean taking a week off for namesake with mails and meetings hovering overhead. It is also not just taking a few deep breaths intermittently or going for a stroll around the block in between work. It is about distancing ourselves and taking time out from everything that pushes us to the wall and takes us by scruff of the neck.

You will be surprised that it is not only our efforts to put food on the table that exhausts us, although it is undoubtedly among our primary vexations; it is also our dalliance with the internet, our over-indulgence with social media, our drowning in over-thinking, our addiction to non-essential activities that we squeeze into our routines. There are a plethora of things that delude us into thinking that life is a grind and there is no escape from it.

Let’s consider this for instance. How comfortable are we with the idea of going on a digital vacation? To many, it is a virtual nightmare. We are willingly becoming hostages to gadgets by stating our fear of losing out and getting isolated as valid reasons to stay hooked.

We are cramming our minds with junk thoughts and rabid imaginations in the name of planning and putting our life in order. We are constantly ruminating about unwarranted matters, often exaggerating them only because we don’t know any other way to live.

We are habituated to think ‘pause’ as a fleeting break and anything more than that is considered counter-intuitive to endeavour. We count it as ‘idling’, and that, we cannot afford.

Taking a break is not only about staying physically away from work. It serves no purpose if we still wallow in thoughts related to work and other ‘pressing concerns’ while we are pretending to recharge. It is about pausing at the core, delinking ourselves for a bit from the duress and finding the patch where we will be with our own tranquil selves. It is about breaking our reluctance to sit back and look at the vastness as if it is all there is to life. It is about doing nothing at all.

For this, we need to weed out the excesses from our lives. Knowing what must stay and how much we can tackle is paramount to our well-being. Distancing ourselves from the chaos might sound like an old, futile philosophy, but if we don’t give ourselves a chance to jump out at the right time, we will end up getting gradually cooked in the stew of our own recipe.

(Asha Iyer Kumar is a Dubai-based author, children’s life-writing coach, youth motivational speaker and founder of iBloom, fze. She can be reached at ibloom@ashaiyerkumar.com)

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