What are fake breaks?

March 64th 2021, 2:41:51 PM

I, like many people right now, are working from home. No shocker here.

I, like many people are juggling family, trying to support my teenagers (both in exam years) drag some form of education out of this year.

I am running a business with my partner/husband alongside running and growing a start up of my own. For me it’s been an emotionally aerobic and acrobatic year. Also I suspect for many others, no shocker here either.

Included in my work space now is a kitchen full of unhelpful distracting snacks.

Included in my work space are piles of laundry wanting to be more important than the article I am writing. 

Included in my work space is an ever flirty list of odd jobs auctioning off my attention to do them. 

Included in my office space are teenagers needing their challenges to be at the front of my list. 

I have never been great at staying focused. My mind likes to wander ‘off the lead’ given any chance. When I had an office or a quiet day working from home it was a clear chalked line between home and work. Now it feels like the line between the rooms in my house are blurring. The edges are literally getting rubbed out by a big eraser in my head.

At this point, I have worked in almost every room in the house and there are very few places left that feel sacred. No places just for eating. No places just for relaxing. No places left just for sleeping. Every room has become multi-use.

We are running our own shared family working space. The coffee is good but the competition for desks and a quiet place to think is at a premium.  The days of the week feel like they are having babies with each other and making new mutant days of the week. 

Some days feel like Friday's head with Sunday's legs. 

Some days feel like I am living in the desert and I have not seen another soul in years. 

Some days feel like I am sitting on a freeway of the internet, watching data traffic whiz by without stopping, whipping fumes in my face. 

Some days feel like I am interning with the Walton’s, every inch taken up by another human being

I have been having the craving to slice up my week, to slice each day and time between work and ‘home’, like neat portions of Victoria sponge cake - familiar, recognisable, reassuring and defined slices. I want to eat each piece and know that is the only thing I am doing. One single, separate, delicious slice at a time. 

I have realised that the reason I have been feeling like this is because I have not been allowing my mind to separate one job from the next. I have not been allowing my mind to separate home time from work time.  I have been living in one long internal monologue. A monologue that I have needed a break from.

How I cottoned on to this was that I started to notice how fed up I was feeling about it all. 

Fed up with feeling cooped up. 

Fed up with sitting in front of a computer for so long and missing the time spent with other people. 

Fed up with the feeling of doing everything, all the time without a pause.

I noticed that this feeling of staleness would hit the back of my teeth by about 2pm in the day.

It’s the feeling I get when I have not taken a break.

The odd thing was that I was taking breaks. I had gone for a walk. I had gone to make tea. I had gone on my phone. I had even gone to do something totally different which often meant unloading the dishwasher or folding laundry so I didn’t have to do it in the evening. Yet, I was still feeling fatigued and flat.

So I started to look at what I was doing in my breaks. I wanted to know why they were not giving me the reset that I was looking for. 

This is what I noticed I was doing in my breaks.

I was doing something different with my body but not doing something different in my mind.

While I was making tea, I was still thinking about what I had to do next.

While I was unloading the dishwasher I was thinking about what I should be doing instead. 

Even when I went for a walk I was thinking about what I could be doing better. 

So although I was taking a physical break, I was not taking a thought break. I realised I was taking ‘Fake Breaks’. 

Now it started to make sense why my world had been blurring. It has been blurring because I have been carrying all of my thoughts from room to room. I have been carrying all my thoughts from job to job.  I have not been getting any real ‘thought breaks’. A real break is not so much what I do physically but what I do in my mind. If you want to see if you are taking real breaks ask yourself this:

Are you letting go of what you have been thinking about?
Are you letting go off all of your to do lists?
Are you letting your mind rest? 
Are you letting yourself come off thought duty? 

Here is how to spot a real break:
A real break is letting your mind drop back into neutral. 
A real break is letting go of everything you think is important so you feel like you have nowhere to be.
A real break allows you to feel refreshed and reset
A real break allows you to feel at ease and ready to start whatever you are doing next with fresh thought
A real break allows you to feel hopeful and connected to yourself.

This has been so useful for me to see. What I am doing now more often, is not blaming my to do list or family for my feeling of fatigue. I can always trace that feeling back to whether I am letting myself reset. I have not tied up my life in a neat bow but I am much more respectful of real breaks. Funnily enough I don’t really care what day of the week it is today.