I’m giving it a rest this week.
It’s important to take a break, especially in the summer. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been suggesting to my clients that they try and ease back too, so they’re rested and ready to go in September.
It’s been interesting how relieved many of them have been. Even in middle age, it seems, we all feel we need to be given permission to take some time off. Me included.
We all need time out.
We need to rest and replenish our energy, focus and inspiration. And we all know this. And yet.. we continue to think that we’re the one human on earth this doesn’t apply to. That if we just push on through and finish that one last thing, we’ll be able to rest easier, or work better. We’ll have earned or we’ll finally deserve time out.
So here I am, just saying it. You’re not that special. You get tired, just like everyone else. And pushing on through will make you more tired. We don’t have to earn a break. Or deserve it. These rhythms are just part of life, and they make us feel more alive too.
So take a break, if you can.
We’ve all had different routes through this pandemic, different challenges and stresses to bear. But all of us have felt the pressure, one way or another. And all of us have been cut off from the things that usually restore us: time with friends and loved ones, travel and new experiences, even simple things like a coffee in a café or a walk around the shops.
We all need time out to recover and replenish, every summer. But this summer even more than usual. We’ve all carried a heavy load for the past 18 months. So cut yourself some slack.
If you need evidence of this, treat yourself to Alex Soojung-Kim-Kim Pang’s book Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less. (My review of it is here.) It’s an entertaining and thorough argument for taking more breaks. But the scientific research he cites only corroborates what we already know, deep down. It’s good to take a break.
Here’s what I’m doing.
Travel still seems too stressful during the pandemic, so I’m mainly spending my holiday at home. I’ve been on a day trip to see Virginia Woolf’s home Monk’s House in Sussex, then to see Charleston, the house owned by her sister Vanessa Bell and the setting for many gatherings of the Bloomsbury Group.
I’ve read four books so far. And gone for a few long walks and longer lunches with friends. I’ve also spent time in my hammock looking up at the clouds. Or I’ve sat on the beach – one of the joys of living by the UK coast – staring at the waves, with the occasional chilly dip in The Channel.
A recipe for time out
Because it seems like many of us have forgotten what a real break looks like, especially if we’re not traveling far from home.
1. Do nothing
If you’re feeling tired, rest. Sleep in. Take naps. Spend the whole day in bed if you want to, reading and sleeping. Or put a blanket on the ground outside, lie on it and watch the sky change*.
(*Flash floods, climate change and crappy British summer permitting.)
2. Allow yourself to get bored
We are rarely bored any more. Much of our technology is designed to distract, to occupy our attention. So switch off your phone, your computer, your TV, all your other go-to distractions. Act as if you’re 10 years old, it’s the long summer holiday, your friends are all away with their families and it’s raining. Stare into space. Day-dream. Sulk, maybe. (I was a champion sulker at that age.) Watch the rain run down a window pane. Now what?
3. Go somewhere new
I know many of us are dreaming of holidays away, of exotic beaches and indulgent hotels, exploring new streets where everyone speaks an unfamiliar language. But it’s also perfectly possible to have adventures closer to home.
Explore new footpaths to see where they lead. Turn left instead of right. Go be a tourist in your home town. Take a day trip to somewhere you’ve always fancied visiting. Try a new café, go into that shop, gallery or museum you walk past every day. Go to a talk, a recital, a class you fancy trying. Just do something different.
4. Go for long walks
There is something about putting one foot in front of the other that quietens the mind and soothes the soul. If you can do it in nature, so much the better. But city walks can be fun too. Especially if you take time to just be, to really look at the people and places around you.
5. Watch your inputs
There’s nothing wrong with a few trashy, escapist books and films. But be careful what you consume over the summer, and make sure you watch, read, see, connect with some quality culture too. Especially things that are new and unfamiliar, and outside your specialist area. This is fun, it’s stimulating – and you’ll find new ideas flow much more easily when you do get back to work.
6. Do the things that make you feel most like you
Resting isn’t always about doing nothing. It’s also about doing the things that make you feel alive, or truly you.
For me, these are walking; reading; writing; pottering about in the garden with my hands in the soil; sharing a good meal and lots of laughter with friends (and sometimes also cooking that meal); seeking out new stories; listening to music – or better still, dancing to it. I also get a strange satisfaction from clearing out a cluttered cupboard or drawer, or making pickles and preserves. All of which are on the agenda for the next few days.
What are your things? And when did you last do them?
Want to start your September well, and re-energise your creative practice or business? I’m launching a ten-week course on September 6 aimed at doing exactly that. It’s for a small group of committed creatives, and we meet virtually. More details here.