22 ways to give yourself a much-needed mental break (before your mind does it for you)

Many people are caught up “doing” so much that they don’t have time to stop, take a productive break, and enjoy the necessary downtime.

Productive and effective people often resist their natural rhythms.
They believe they should push on when they’re tired, try harder when they’re exhausted, stay behind their desks for another hour instead of calling it a day.

But this approach can be harmful. Unending stimulation hampers the capacity for thought. The mind restores brain energy in idleness. Give it the time it needs to keep delivering at it’s best.

Virginia Woolf once said, “My mind works in idleness. To do nothing is often my most profitable way.”

This year, especially at this time of the year, give yourself permission to relax. Mental breaks increase productivity, replenish attention, solidify memories and encourage creativity.

It pays to take a break, clear your head, go for a walk — take some time out. Enjoy the holiday. Spend quality time with your loved ones. Enjoy your favorite downtime activity.

To do nothing is not laziness. It’s a productive pause.

“Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets … it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done, ” argues Cal Newport, in his book, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World.

Just giving your brain a chance to power down and refresh makes a huge difference in life. A quality break allows you to reboot your brain and unwind.

Knowing when to engage is just as important as knowing when to disengage. A purposeful pause is exactly what you need if you constantly demand more from your brain.

Unless we recognize that time spent recharging, replenishing, and restoring your energy counts as productive time, burnout is only going to get worse.
Roopleen once said, “Whatever phase of life you are in, make time to pause and reflect where you are heading to. It is a good time to insert a comma now and realign yourself to your inner self before your life ends in a full stop.”

Pause to reflect. Pause to feel progress. Pause to create. Pause to think. Pause to take control. By all means, take a break. Your total well-being and success depend on it.

Whether you’re working on something new, optimizing your existing systems or improving an existing project— take a break. Get some perspective, recharge the batteries. Remember that pausing beats pushing on — every time.

End this tough year with a good break — your body and brain need it.

22 Ways to give yourself a break

Prioritize downtime activities to fully recharge: take a long evening walk, dance to good music, enjoy a good meal with close relations, take piano, drawing or painting lessons online.

Read (re-read) your favorite book, write down the things you’re grateful for, go outside and immerse yourself in nature, or do a relaxing activity you’ve always wanted to do. Allow yourself a little extra sleep. Go to bed a little earlier than usual.

Simply sit. Choose to do nothing — don’t read, watch TV, surf the web, or in any way consume information. Just be. Make a conscious decision to spend the first portion of your morning tech-free. Decide for a day that nothing is urgent (unless it’s an actual life-or-death situation).

Take a day off from negative, draining people. Declutter a space for ten minutes. Have a quick early morning quiet time. Chat with an old friend you’ve not spoken to in awhile. Listen to a podcast that fuels your or imagination. Disconnect from social media for a day or two. Take a power nap. Turn off your phone for a few hours. Watch your favorite movie.

Aim for activities that are not triggers for other tasks. Plan to be present and aware of what is driving your actions. Commit to doing something purely for its self-care benefit.

Take care. Self-care is not selfish.

This article originally appeared in Medium.