As an INFP, I’m full of ideas and inspiration. I also deal with plenty of anxiety and worry because I can’t help caring deeply about things.
There is also pressure to keep going–to keep writing, sharing, and making. But unfortunately in a world where sharing is easy, there’s the temptation to be always ‘on.’ This environment often causes me to blur the line between work and rest.
After dealing with anxiety and mild burnout after publishing my last book, I realized that it was time for me to introduce some serious break times to my day. For me, deciding to do this was groundbreaking.
In anime, there is the stereotype of comic artists working late into the night to meet a deadline while having cold and heat compresses stuck to their faces due to the physical strain. When I was creating webcomics, I had a similar work ethic, which carried on to other parts of my life. But now I’m like, “No more overworking myself to meet invisible deadlines!”
I will work to meet my goals, but overwork is going to be out of the picture. Also as a highly sensitive person if I want to stay healthy, I need to know when to slow it down.
The Awesomeness of a Break Time List
I decided to make a list of things that I could do to take a break. I asked myself, “What could I do to rest for 15 minutes? 30 minutes? An hour? An entire day?”
I tried to make sure that my list mostly consisted of things I can do at home and that doesn’t require a computer since I use one for most of my work. But, watching TV shows and movies are an exception.
Since having a consistent schedule is out of reach for me right now, it’s easier to figure out what to do when I have the time available. So when I take a break from working on something, I ask myself, “Do I need a 15 minute, 30 minute, or an hour break?”
Then depending on how much time I need and have available, I pick something from the list. Usually, I scan the list of time appropriate break activities and pick what excites me the most.
I’ve been using this technique for almost a month, and it’s helped me out so much when it comes to seeing what refills me when my energy is running low.
I know it’s time to take a break when I start losing focus, become sleepy, experience physical aches and pains, or feel anxious and stressed. I’ve also found it helpful to take breaks after activities that take a lot from me, such as cleaning the bathroom, cooking, helping my husband with his business, and creating stuff.
In his book, Sustainable Creativity, I like how Micheal Nobbs writes about having an internal energy bank. Throughout the day, we have to be aware of what depletes the bank and what refills it. It’s like knowing which apps on your phone will prolong the battery life or drain it.
Reflecting on this concept helped me to appreciate having this list alone wouldn’t be enough to make sure that I keep myself recharged. I had to know what drains my energy. I had to look through my list and identify what creates significant physical or mental strain.
Beware of Work in Disguise
On the one hour section of my list, I had written: “Read nonfiction.” I enjoy nonfiction, and it doesn’t feel like work. However, when I read nonfiction, I take extensive notes, and I am constantly generating new ideas. It’s not like reading fiction or a graphic novel where I enjoy what’s there on the page with minimal analysis.
So although reading nonfiction is fun, it’s work. It’s mentally draining. There were quite a few other items on my “Take a Break” list that was work in disguise.
Things I enjoy so much that I can do all day such as writing, blogging, and arts and crafts, are work. Also, beware of small things that can induce a lot of stress during your break times, such as reading the news or checking emails.
If checking your email or social media doesn’t stress you out and doesn’t remind you of work, keep it on your list. Just be careful not to make your breaks into mini-segments of work.
When I was listening to the audiobook of Start by Jon Acuff, he shared how whenever his family went on vacation, he would spend his time brainstorming new ideas for his business because that’s what he found fun.
However, on one vacation, he decided to let go of brainstorming and instead spend his time reading fiction and building sandcastles with his kids. He realized that to truly relax, he needed to take a moment away from working with ideas. Although that was what he loved to do, it was work in disguise. (And just as a side note, I don’t know what Acuff’s personality type is, but for some reason, his books ooze ENFP vibes. I highly recommend reading his work.)
So if you’re creating your own “Break Time” list, make sure to scrutinize the activities on it. Ask, “Will this activity refresh me?” Don’t be afraid to change and adjust it.
Know When You’re Not on Break
Some activities straddle the line when comes to refilling versus depleting. I still note ideas whenever they hit me because as a writer that’s essential for me. But I consider making outlines and creating lists of blog posts and book ideas as work. I also include doing any extensive research for a project as work.
So what mental and physical activities drain you? What feels like work to you? I can be anything from your day job to chores and social activities. Take a moment to make a list. Include activities that are work in disguise. These are things to avoid as you engage in activities on your break list.
Plus, if you are prone to burnout that comes out of the blue like I am, then you’ll have a better idea of who the culprit could have been. In our busy world, make your breaks count.
The artwork for this post is also by Arcadia Page