Take A Break

Christina Jeffrey, LMHC November 10, 2020

It's been a long year. And we're not to the finish line yet. Enjoy the day. Grab a cookie. Take a break.

You need a break.

A vacation. A weekend away. A Sabbath rest. 

You probably don't realize it because you've spent the past six months basically in one house or on one block, but life has taken its toll. Don't feel bad if this comes as a shock to you— I didn't realize it, either, at first.

What I have felt myself, and repeatedly heard from my clients, is that a collective wanderlust has kicked in. Our need for a different outlook, a spiritual rest, a change of scenery, or simply the space to take a step back is real and very much happening. 

For most of us who have been homebound since March, the idea of a vacation probably hasn't crossed our minds. Or, if it has, it has seemed utterly preposterous given the current state of the world. But I am here to assure you that now more than ever, you need a break. This message goes doubly so for all the essential workers who have kept us afloat and alive this season— I'm looking at you Iris at Key Foods!

You might be appalled at my suggestion. You may be thinking, "A break?! I haven't done anything." 

Really? You've done nothing at all? 

I mean, other than sit in the soup of existential angst and grieve normalcy while having all of your interpersonal relationships reduced to a screen, as your boundaries get completely obliterated by the blurred lines of work and home. But, yeah, nothing going here, except for copious Netflix binges paired with the drink du jour, all while honing whatever post-apocalyptic life skill has struck your fancy this week. Who would need a break from all of that?

Obviously, everyone. 

We are tired. We are overwhelmed. We are emotionally drained. Some days, our bandwidth is thinner than a grasshopper's eyelash. We have lost our creative mojo and sense of fun. In short: this sucks and it is hard. 

Unless that's just me? I am not devastatingly unique, so I doubt it.  We are pack animals, and having our pack taken from us collectively, comes at a great cost.

The stress is real. 
The sadness is real. 
The missing people is real. 
The need to escape is real. 

I encourage you to listen to your inner knowing, to read the signs of your frustration, your quick temper, your irritability. All these reactions are completely normal; they are neither good nor bad. It's what we do with the feelings we have that determines the moral value of them. 

Rather than beat yourself up for having a human response to a surreal experience, I encourage you to pay attention to the itchiness, the discomfort, the longing because your body and mind are telling you: you need a break.

Physiologically, there is a point human beings all hit; after about six months of prolonged, intense stress, our bodies and minds throw up their collective hands and cry "no more!" The mere fact that our eyes have not evolved for the 2-D viewing required by screens, exacts a physical, physiological, psychological, and, by extension, emotional toll. The reality is we are not made for this kind of life: the constant uncertainty, the distance, the never-ending fear. 

One of the best definitions I ever heard to describe trauma is this: trauma is a normal response to an abnormal situation. If we view the past eight months through that lens, the ongoing collective traumatization of 2020 is reason enough to give yourself a break.

With everything that's going on, you may be wondering how to take a break or how to make yourself take a break. Well, it's easier (and more fun) than you think. Research indicates that the greatest restorer of energy and mood is good old-fashioned play. For those of you who are curious, play is anything we do that instills a sense of fun, relaxation. Time flies when we are in a state of play. Whether that means grabbing a ball and hitting up a park, taking up coloring, getting out of town for a change of scenery, or hosting a socially distanced game night somewhere, the benefits of play cannot be overstated.

It's been a long year. And we're not to the finish line yet. Take a break. Enjoy the day. Grab a cookie. Allow yourself to just be. Because as I've said, we need a break.

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