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Why I Should Take a Break

“As human beings, the importance of restoration is rooted in our physiology. We are not designed to spend energy continuously. Rather we are meant to pause between the expending of energy and recovery is what improves our performance.”

One of our keys learnings on MYD this year was that in order to be successful we need to have balance in our lives and this includes taking a break in order to recharge ourselves. If you are feeling guilty about taking a break this festive season, or are finding yourself having to work while most are on holiday and considering not taking a break when you do get the chance, then this especially prepared piece by behavioural scientist, Tony Muganza, is just for you.

Why I Should Take a Break by Tony Muganza

Taking a break is often associated with fun and enjoyment. This notion is held by children and adults alike. School going children often look forward to school holidays while working adults look forward to weekends and longer vacations during a working year. During holidays, we can rest and spend time doing the non-routine things we always wanted to such as spending time with family and friends. Rest from any routine can be refreshing and nurturing and these have a direct effect on our health. An easy way to relate vacation with health impact is that during holidays, we tend to sleep longer which helps the body to self-re-build and reduce the effects of such things as stress and depression.

Holidays are a great source of relaxation, new energy and enthusiasm to live our everyday life and better performance at work. And this where I should start…

a) Employees who take a work-free break tend to perform better. The key here is “work-free break”. For a vacation to result in better performance, an individual needs to intentionally switch off from work. It is of little to no use, for an employed person to take a vacation so that “they can do their own work”. In this case, the body physically remains at work although it may seem different since what the individual engages in is a non-routine activity. There is no such thing as “working vacation” as this goes against the ideals of taking time off – missing the adventure. Indeed, as human beings, the importance of restoration is rooted in our physiology. We are not designed to spend energy continuously. Rather we are meant to pause between the expending of energy and recovery is what improves our performance.

IMG_1444b) Taking a break has the potential to increase overall family harmony. The key word here is “family”. When a family cares to break-away together, there are open opportunities for bonding, improved communication and solidarity. Taking a break as a family increases the chances of and for sharing experiences which influences shared growth and meaning in family life. Shared family memories and time spent together help to promote positive ties among family members.

c) Breaking away improves individual focus. As the body and mind unwind, there is a tendency to focus on a few most important elements of a person’s life such as personal growth and social development. On return from vacation individuals tend to have stronger focus on things that matter to them. At work, individuals may get more overall work done at a higher level of quality, efficiency and effectiveness. Vacation allows us to gain new perspectives of our everyday life some of which can lead to new and wider horizons.

d) Taking a break is great health booster. The majority of lifestyle diseases such as heart disease, hypertension, and obesity are associated with stretched physical and metal activity with limited to no punctuations of vacation. This is because stress, depression and such other psychological effects thrive in a “busy” body. Lifestyle diseases are a natural way through which the body reacts to a lifestyle of stress. Taking a break increases the likelihood of generating feelings of calm which relieve stress and allows the body and mind to heal in ways it cannot if exposed to continuous pressure.

e) Holidays are indicated for reduced burnout. Working all the time and getting things done makes one feel “great” but the brain feels something completely different.  Human brains do not have a reserve power and energy pool. For this reason one soon feels burnout! Breaking away is a natural “fire extinguisher” that puts off that which burns from the inside. Because you are out of work, you won’t feel all the pressures and discouragement that arise from keeping too busy. Taking regular time to relax makes you more creative and productive stepping clear of your counterparts who are overworked and under-rested.

There is no such thing as a universal perfect time to take a break. While a lot of people break-away towards Christmas through New Years, there are plenty of opportunities all year round that an individual can take a vacation. The most ideal time for a vacation can be identified through a thorough personal assessment of your needs for holiday. Factors to consider may include health needs, stress levels, family and friends, economic factors, job requirements etcetera.

When taking a vacation, make it simple, it is not time to be extravagant and get into unnecessary financial trouble. If you are resource constrained, stay home, sleep and play with your kids. If you choose to travel, choose budget destinations that match your income. Pack light. If you leave your expensive gadgets at home you will not have to worry about them getting stolen in the hotel or parking lot somewhere. Leave the computer at home lest you will be tempted to work. Do not carry detailed or compulsory to-do-lists. Some venues are too full in season so you may opt for freer venue even if you would have preferred a particular place. Some items may be off season which gives an opportunity to enjoy that which is in season. In fact, just enjoy the adventure.