I took a short break from writing and permitted myself to rest whenever possible for the past weeks. For many, it can be difficult to do, so, I understand. Responsibilities and obligations bind us. But whenever I can, and however short that break is, I’d take it. I like to take my rest seriously.
A special report on mental health first published on Gulfnews on July 4, 2022, explored the “ultimate wellness philosophy of doing nothing” as shared by many cultures that believe in ‘timeout’ for the self.
Writer Sraddha Sabu talked about Netherlands’ ‘Niksen,’ the Dutch term that literally means to do nothing. It also means being idle or doing actions that have no particular use such as sitting in a chair or looking out of the window. To the Dutch, the key to Niksen is hitting the pause button without guilt. In the Netherlands, one of the happiest nations in the world, doing this in moderation is an acceptable and cherished idea.
And then, there is Italy’s il dolce far niente—the sweetness of doing nothing, which means taking your time to relax and enjoy nature, celebrating a calm atmosphere, or detaching from any form of stress. In her article, she also mentioned the benefits of ‘mind wanderings’ as practiced in moderation, which can reduce anxiety and strengthen the ability to handle stressful time periods.
A break can mean getting a full night’s sleep, a day off the screen, a quick out-of-town trip, a long walk in the park, or time to rekindle the love for your creative hobbies. As they say, whatever floats your boat. Even micro-breaks can do wonders for your body. Science has been telling us about the many benefits of taking breaks—it can “reduce and prevent stress, help maintain performance throughout the day, and cut short the need for a long recovery at the end of the day,” making you more productive and efficient. It will also give you more time to spend with your loved ones. The responsibility of doing this, of course, falls upon ourselves.
French-Cuban diarist Anaïs Nin once reminded us that “We cannot always place responsibility outside of ourselves, on parents, nations, the world, society, race, religion. Long ago it was the gods. If we accepted a part of this responsibility we would simultaneously discover our strength.”
The prolific journalist Joan Didion wrote: “Character—the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life —is the source from which self-respect springs.” You cannot expect others to know when you need to take a break. A doctor once told me to “learn how to listen, and listen well to your body as it tells you what it needs.” I never forgot that.
How do you take a break? How important is it to you? As for me, a weekend out-of-town trip to my favorite beach town to lie on the sand and watch the sunset is one of the best ways to rest and recover from stress. I can list a hundred things but I don’t want to bore you further. So instead, I asked some individuals from all walks of life and from different parts of the world how they take their breaks or handle stress, and here are their words:
I’m a working mom with two toddlers, and really, there are many days when all I want is a little break. The stress from work and running a household can be overwhelming. It’s important to me that I get to compartmentalize. I take a pause, pray, and make a list of the important things I need to do or urgent matters I need to attend to. Once I know what to do, I allow myself to rest.
Divine Catipay, 39, Architect
When I’m super stressed, I light a candle in my room and listen to Yiruma or any soothing music. I also find long drives therapeutic, as it helps clear my mind. I also have this soul-searching moment that I do ever since college, like watching a movie or eating out in a good restaurant alone. It’s like my form of decompression when things get chaotic.
Jellyboks, 35, Asst.Business Operations / Performing Artist
San Francisco, CA
How I handle stress is to pull back from the stressful situation and take time to rest—it can be taking a nap, praying, going for a walk, or making time to do something that makes me smile.
Cielo Maaliw, 39, Business Analyst
I’m an outdoorsy person, so whenever I feel like I need a break from stressful work situations, I go to an open space like a nature park to breathe. Sometimes going to a bustling place teeming with people who seem happy and just observing them seems to help relieve my stress as it diverts my attention and focus from my own predicament. Most of the time, exercising is enough. I do take time also to pray and meditate to sort of find my balance.
Joana Salcedo, 38, Sales Manager
I mostly play video games or binge-watch anime. On some days I either holed up at home or at a café with some really nice iced long black. Basically, I avoid interacting with people especially when I feel ‘peopled out’ since that’s what normally stresses me out.
Che, 39, Luxury leather repair technician,
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