How to Enjoy Taking Breaks (And Not Feel Guilty)

Itxy Lopez

Photo: Heng Films/Unsplash

Despite the growing headache I had, I continued to work. I wrote, edited, read articles, watched some writing classes — all on my laptop.

I knew the eye-strain wasn’t good for my pain, but work was more important. I could work through the discomfort.

Big mistake.

By the end of the night, the headache had turned into a terrible migraine. The pressure in my head was so strong I had no choice but to head to bed early.

The next day, I thought about my actions. How I’d prioritized my work over my health. I knew my eyes were getting tired of staring at the screen, but I kept staring at it anyway.

Are You Prioritizing Your Work Over Your Health?

That’s not the only time I’ve done it. We all tend to put our work over our physical health. We don’t stand and stretch our legs every half hour. We don’t stretch before typing. We don’t look up from the screen every twenty minutes like we’re supposed to.

It’s not just our physical health that’s deteriorating. We don’t spend less time on social media even though it’s fucking with our mental health. We don’t put boundaries in place with our phones. Our minds are filled with so much noise we can’t think for ourselves.

But it’s all in the name of work. Of productivity.

We can’t pull back or take a break because we become flooded with guilt. The idea of hustling and working hard to the point of exhaustion has been engrained in the younger generations. Anything other than your best is not good enough.

Do you realize how dangerous that is?

The Dangers of Punishing Yourself for Being Human

I’m not saying you should stop working hard. Your dreams require nothing less. I still believe we should always push a little harder than we think we can — but never to the point where you sacrifice parts of yourself. Never to the point where you end up in the hospital because you forgot to sleep. Never to the point where you’re turning to alcohol for stress-relief.

You can’t work if you’re not okay. You can’t focus if you’re tired because you only get five hours of sleep. You can’t be productive if you’re always in a grumpy mood.

You think it doesn’t matter now, but it will in the future. You’ll regret not having taken care of yourself.

If you feel guilty for taking a break and putting yourself first, you’re doing it wrong. How dare we punish ourselves for being human? For needing space to breathe and work on other projects that bring us joy — projects that won’t necessarily advance our goals?

I’m calling bullshit.

How to Set Rules for Work and Health

We need to prioritize our physical and mental health. We need to find a balance between self-love and hustling because if you don’t, you’re not going to be able to work at all.

Do you know how many writers have to speak their articles instead of typing them because they skipped their stretches? How many people have given up because they burnt out?

If you want to reach your dreams, you don’t have a choice but to be kind to yourself.

You need to start with small steps that, in the end, will make a big impact. These are the rules I’m setting up for myself:

  1. Don’t spend more than an hour at a time on the laptop (have at least thirty-mintes breaks in between)
  2. Stand every twenty to thirty minutes to stretch when sitting for long periods of time
  3. Reduce social media time to thirty minutes a day
  4. Don’t go on your phone unless it’s intentional (and avoid falling into rabbit holes)
  5. Get eight hours of sleep every night

While it might not seem like it, all of these rules will help me work smarter. I won’t necessarily be working long hours, but if you can get the same amount of work done in less time, you’re winning.

Changes You Can Make to Prioritize Your Health

It’s not the number of hours that matters but the quality of work you put into each hour. I’m still going to accomplish what I did before, but I’m not going to sacrifice my health because of it.

You can work hard and love yourself at the same time. Cutting down on social media is self-love. Finding ways to work off the screen is self-love.

I’ve decided to watch my MasterClass on the television instead of my laptop screen because the tv doesn’t hurt my eyes. I’m going to take more time to read because it makes me happy.

There should be a balance between work and treating yourself well. When’s the last time you exercised? Are your eyes red and dry by the end of the night? Is your back tired from all the hours you’ve been sitting? You need to figure out how to solve these problems.

You can get a better chair or a standing desk. Everyone can spare half an hour to work out every other day. You could decrease how much time you spend online by buying physical products instead of apps (i.e., a planner instead of ToDoist).

There’s always a way. The question is: are you willing to do it?

What Else Can You Make Time For?

One thing people don’t talk much about is the loneliness that comes with following your dreams. You’ll start isolating yourself, but not on purpose.

You need connection. How can you get in touch with the people you love? Can you start eating dinner together? Can you put down your phone when someone speaks to you? Can you set a weekly game night with your friends?

If you feel lonely, it’s because you’re separating yourself. Make an effort to connect with the people beside you, not just the people across the world.

Your friends and family matter as much as your goals.

Final Words

I know you love your work and you desperately want to reach your goals, but if you continue to obsess over it without boundaries, you’re going to fall into a dark hole.

The results aren’t sweet when you celebrate alone or when you realize you sacrificed yourself and your life to win.

On the days when you can push harder than ever, work longer than ever, then push. But on the days when you can’t exude all of your energy, just give a little more than you think you can.

Never forget everything else that matters. You. Your family. Your health. Your sanity. You’re allowed to love your work, but you’re also allowed to love yourself.

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