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Sometimes, you’ve just gotta take a break

If you’ve been following me for anything more than 2 weeks, you’ll have realised that I insist, in almost all my training, on the importance of rest and being kind to yourself. 

Not gonna lie though – I find it very hard to do this for myself.

Some time ago, I spent a whole weekend feeling terrible and beating myself up for not writing and sending an email to my mailing list. 

Now I understand that these emails are not that earth shatteringly important. People mayor may not even be reading them.

But I’d got it into my head that I have to send out a newsletter every Sunday and that somehow lodged into my head as A Rule.

Then, one day I met up with a former PhD colleague, who’s now a full-time university lecturer. Brilliant researcher, prolific writer, works hard as all hell. 

She told me that a few days ago, she’d felt so tired one morning that she ‘allowed’ herself to lie in for an extra hour, and not get up and start working at 7.30am as usual. 

I asked if she felt guilty doing that, and her answer was immediately, a huge, emphatic Oh, yes

There we were – two PhD graduates, two conscientious, hardworking, ethical people torn up with guilt and shame for letting our bodies rest a bit longer than usual and not work to some strange, arbitrary working rule we’d set ourselves. 

This might sound familiar to you. 
(And if not, I congratuate you for being in that healthy, self-caring space!) 

A big part of modern life is falling into these strange – almost entirely arbitrary – rules about what is ‘acceptable’, ‘good’, ‘productive’ work behaviour… and then punishing ourselves if we don’t meet them.

But who set those damn rules in the first place? 

Modern life, capitalist and neoliberal societies, 21st-Century academia, corporate behemoths – they all persuade us of the importance of prioritising mind over matter:

Pain is gain. Individual striving is glory. Be productive! Be successful! Create, endeavour, push push push! 

They send a message that the needs of the body are base, that we should privilege that rational, disciplined mind over the unruly, slothful, lump of a body.

So we’re made to feel less-than, lazy, neglectful if we elect rest over working that extra hour.

We feel guilty and self-indulgent for doing the things that bring us joy and rejuvenation, rather than ‘disciplining’ ourselves to read that extra article, write that extra paragraph, go that extra mile.

But you know what? Those rules really are arbitrary as fuck.

They don’t always make sense for most people. 
They’re not realistic
They’re not enjoyable
And worst of all, they don’t make us better in any way.

So yeah, I didn’t write that newsletter on Sunday. It’s took me almost a full week to be okay with that. I had to consciously remind myself that the only person holding myself to the Sunday-newsletter Rule was me. 

Today, I invite you to do the same – relax some of your own rules.

It might be too much to throw out the rule book altogether, but maybe allow yourself a loophole or two, or bend the rules a little. 

Sleep in that extra hour. 
Finish working an hour earlier today.
Say ‘no’ to a favour someone’s asking of you. 
Ask yourself why you have to schedule 15 meetings when 5 will do.

And then – take a damn break.

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