How to Take a Break That Will Leave You Re-energised


How to Take a Break That Will Leave You Re-energised

Have you ever returned to work after holidays feeling more worn out than when you left?

I must admit I’ve done that many times. When I’m on a break, I rarely sit still. I travel whenever I get the chance, which means that I’m on my feet from morning till night. An Airbnb host – a true inspiration herself – wrote this review about me recently,

“She is also an inspiration to me for making the most out of a visit to a new place, and impressive in her discipline to see all she could …”

I’m quite certain that many Small Business owners can relate to this. We are simply not the sort of people who can just watch the world go by for long without feeling the itch to do something useful or fun.

However, I’ve learnt over the past years that it’s possible to keep active on holiday without getting exhausted; we just need to keep a few principles in mind.

In fact, whether we take a 5-minute break or a whole month these principles are essentially the same:

1. Don’t try too hard to make the most out of your downtime.

Break time is scarce and precious, so it can be tempting to squeeze in as much activity into our ‘free’ days as possible. Perhaps we want to explore exciting places, spend time in nature, meet friends and family, attend events, read books, play sports, meditate, exercise our hobbies … do lots of things that are good for us.

I’m sure you can see the irony here. As soon as we start obsessing about making the best use of our time we, in fact, rob ourselves of the chance to recharge. And when we find ourselves tackling to-do-lists and chasing goals while on a break, we probably need to change something.

Yes, I’ve been there too. I used to stress about relaxing. But nowadays I tend to start my days off work with the intention to be present, curious, and open to possibilities. I may choose to focus on a certain goal or question in my life but follow no action plans.

This is a peaceful yet fertile state of being. We see insights and opportunities for progress everywhere when we step back, look at the world with eyes wide open, and allow ourselves to see the wood for the trees.

2. Don’t push yourself the same way as you do at work.

On a typical work day, most of us read more emails, articles and documents than we can easily take in. We change tasks frequently and communicate in various directions. We brainstorm creative solutions to tricky problems and make many decisions. Inevitably, we often work under pressure and amidst frequent interruptions.

Completing the tasks associated with running a business is a marathon mental workout. This is exactly why we need to take breaks from work every now and then and to restore our mind. However, we need to be smart about how we spend our time during our well-deserved break.

When we only have a few minutes to spare, sending personal emails and chat messages, playing online games, or browsing social media sites can be tempting. But do these activities really help us regain our energy and focus?

Or have you noticed that you feel clearer and more energised after activities that don’t put the same kind of demand on your mind as your work does? Perhaps after having a walk, listening to music, preparing a healthy lunch, or even doing boring household chores (if you have a home office)?

This principle is also true for longer periods of rest. After having your attention pulled in many different directions, you probably find it refreshing to slow down a little, unplug, and immerse yourself in a single activity that you enjoy.

I also believe in the beneficial effects of the occasional ‘information fast’ (which means not even reading books for a little while). We consume so much information day after day; sometimes we also need to give ourselves the chance to digest what we have learnt.

3. Take a clean break from work.

It’s common knowledge that it’s easier to take your mind off work and relax on a holiday when you have a clean break from work. This means, for example, not making work-related phone calls, checking work emails, or doing work-related learning activities or research.

(I must admit that I struggle with this last one. Understanding people and places is both my expertise and my passion. So wherever I see beautiful or interesting places populated with happy people, the work side of my brain lights up.)

However, there are a few other tricks that could help you take your mind off work. If possible, spend time in places that look and feel different from your usual work environment.

If you stay at home during your break, and you have a home office, spend as little time in there as possible, and put your files and work tools out of sight. Try to use different furniture and devices for relaxation or entertainment than you use for work. Listen to different music. Put simply, reduce the common denominators in the ways you work and rest to the bare minimum.

Find your ‘resting pose’.

If you happen to practice yoga, you probably know that some of the ‘resting’ poses can help you build flexibility and strength. You don’t go limp. But when you hold those poses after a difficult sequence of movements, you actually feel relaxed, because you work a different set of muscles in your body.

Remember, you shouldn’t push yourself too hard while you’re on leave, but you don’t need to be idle either. You can certainly take steps towards moving forward in life, but doing things differently from how you usually work could help you relax and re-energise.

That way you will give yourself a better chance to get back to work feeling at the top of your game.

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