The Benefits of Taking Breaks

I wrote a blog a few days ago about recognizing that we sometimes push ourselves too much and that it helps to take breaks and treat ourselves kindly. I was writing in response to a woman who had written that she felt too behind and needed to be more self-disciplined and stop whining.

She wrote back saying:

"I've been sleep deprived for years, between young children and LIFE and just not taking care of myself. I average about 5-6 hours of sleep a night, plus I've been getting up with babies in the middle of the night for many of the nights over the past several years. Once the kids are in bed, I end up trying to get other things done with the "quiet" time, but too often end up doing non-essential stuff that just wastes time. So I'm definitely not taking good care of myself. Later in the day after reading your email, I put my 1 year old in the crib with some toys, got a snugly blanket and pillow for myself, and purposely took a nap. I slept... deeply... for probably an hour. I was amazed my little one lasted that long, but so appreciative. Now I know I need to get more sleep at night, but this was a good start for me."

Sometimes I think we're discouraged from putting ourselves first. I think we're naturally selfish in a good way. We operate with the feeling that we're the center of the universe. We're built this way so we take care of ourselves. We can't push away our sense of seeing things this way. But we're trained to feel guilty about it. So we end up feeling badly about our natural inclination. Because of this we punish ourselves by doing things that we know aren't essential to us, our hearts aren't into it, and then we feel badly about it afterwards.

But I think it's good to treat ourselves. The great thing is we really appreciate it when we do something nice for us. And we see that the rest of the world doesn't fall apart when we do. Actually others benefit when we take care of our needs because we're happier. We're more pleasant to be around. And our needs greatly diminish. When we don't take care of ourselves, we become needy to others. This alienates those who are close to us. It's impossible to satisfy a needy person because their satisfaction will only come when they begin to take care of themselves. When we do something nice for ourselves, our needs greatly diminish and we feel peaceful again.

I try and remember this for myself. There were a few times earlier today where I was feeling out of sorts and rather than push through it, I stopped and took some breaks. I played guitar. I went outside and walked around in the snow. I listened to some Foghat! These were little things, but they meant a lot to me. I could feel my spirits rise. Afterwords it was easier to go back and take care of some things that needed attending to.