Take a Break Before You Break!

Have we lost our ability to switch off? 

Even with being at home during lockdown, many people struggle with working longer hours and harder than ever before.

Working at home, the lines have become blurred between working hours and downtime. This drives us towards increased levels of stress and the danger of a burnout.

People have cancelled their summer vacations and getaways due to lockdown travelling restrictions in various countries. Restaurants, museums, and theme parks have social distancing laws in place, making anyone think twice about going anywhere.   

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Melody Wilding, a social worker, says: “It’s the increase in workload, it’s the lack of boundaries, it’s just the energetic drain of having this existential uncertainty in the air all the time that’s driving us toward burnout.” Covid-19 is no picnic.

The need to take a break is more important now than it has ever been. Wilding suspects people are doing more work to try to cope with stress, the only way to recharge, from a physiological perspective, is to take a break. 

We need to tell ourselves it’s okay to pause. It’s okay to step away and take a break from everything.

The Science behind taking a break

Science says that our brain needs downtime. Actually, even during a break our brain is working. It uses that time to process our emotions. If we are constantly doing and even using our spare time for social media or a screen our brain does not get the chance to complete this process.

Mary Helen Immordino-Yang from the Brain and Creativity Institute, University of Southern California, Los Angeles published a paper titled, “Rest Is Not Idleness.”

 Immordino-Yang explains that when you take a break your brain does the much required maintenance it needs to function at its optimal level.

The same way our muscles grow after bouts of strenuous exercise, our brains function in much the same way during a break. There are numerous benefits of taking a break.

They include: becoming more alert, better memory cognition, increased imagination, and improved problem-solving skills. And, if that’s not enough, by taking a break you can also decrease the risk for Alzheimer’s disease, boost your levels of happiness, and have better sex.  In a 2013 article, the New York Times wrote:

“A new and growing body of multidisciplinary research shows that strategic renewal — including daytime workouts, short afternoon naps, longer sleep hours, more time away from the office and longer, more frequent vacations — boosts productivity, job performance and, of course, our overall health and wellbeing.’ 

Numerous examples of people who benefited from even short naps during the day include Leonardo Da Vinci, JF Kennedy and Einstein. Lest we forget the sunnah of taking a nap in the afternoon to recuperate from our hectic morning schedules so that we can be alert for our evening prayers. “

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About Fatima Bheekoo-Shah
Fatima Bheekoo-Shah is the author of "Saffron" (A collection of personal narratives by Muslim women), a freelance writer and book reviewer. She resides in Gauteng, South Africa. A book nerd and avid reader, Fatima is always looking for her next great read.