Could you be mentally, physically and emotionally draining yourself to the point of becoming inefficient and ineffective? Are you taking the necessary rest that you need?
It is not uncommon to find people working for years on end without ever having gone on a break or even taken a vacation.
The reasons for this are varied. For some it is because their jobs just don’t give them leeway to go on leave. A case in mind here is many workers such as maids and gardeners. Their employers sometimes don’t give them time off and expect them to work even on holidays when they themselves are taking a rest. Few have any real rights or power to fight this and to demand a break, unfortunately.
For others it is because their businesses or employers just do not make any allowances for people to go on leave. There are no plans to cover the role of any person should they not be at work, particularly for small and family businesses. They have to work or else the business of the company will be adversely affected or even come to a halt. Sometimes the business or company is just weary of having to make adjustments during a person’s absence and for this reason that person is not allowed to go on a break. There are quite a few superiors out there that are scared to let juniors go on leave because they fear that they cannot handle the work themselves, or they just want the comfort of knowing that someone else is there to do the work.
Then there are those that feel indispensible to a company or business. They are people that know they are entitled to a break and really can take it almost anytime they wish. But they are stuck in the mentality that if they are not around nothing will run smoothly. They think they are so important to what is going on that nothing will move unless they are there. This is rarely true of-course and the reality is that even if they died that very day things would continue moving and a replacement would be found for their role in a month or two. For such, the fact they have not gone on leave in ages and have accumulated a lifetime’s worth of irredeemable leave is often a point of great pride.
People also do not take a break because they really do not have much to do if they took a break. These are people that have become so defined by their work that outside of that they do not know who they are. Their interests and interactions with people have shrunk to unimaginable levels and being away from work would mean utter boredom and meaninglessness for their lives. Their life is out of balance.
But taking a break from your work or business is absolutely necessary for many reasons, if not for the fact that it is a legal requirement if you are in employment.
Mental fatigue can set in if you have been working endlessly. It can be caused by continual mental effort and attention on a particular task, as well as high levels of stress or emotion. Symptoms include an inability to keep fixed attention, memory lapses, difficulty grasping new ideas and slowness in reasoning.
Usually even on a normal working day this sets in as the day goes on. Tasks seem more complicated and take longer to finish. Mistakes are a common result of this.
But apart from being mentally exhausting, The Journal of Applied Physiology reports that mental work can be physically exhausting as well. No surprise then that you often feel physically tired after a late night or long day at work. A break is therefore necessary to give the mind time to rest and to function at an optimum level. You spend more time doing a task when mentally exhausted, so you are better off taking the break and in this way regaining the efficiency when you are back at work.
Taking a break can also help you to maintain or improve your creativity. Being in the same situation and circumstances day-in and day-out gets your mind stuck and unable to see things in a different light. Opportunities may be missed in this way or mistakes repeated over and over again as your imagination and creativity are stifled. When you take a break, your mind is rested and you are in a different environment, you may begin to perceive the same situation differently and more clearly. Taking a break is therefore crucial to your creativity and long term success.
I practice this often and whenever I feel stuck or lacking in energy I like to leave the task at hand and come back to it after I have had some fun or relaxation. The immediate thing that always hit me is “this is so easy, why was I having difficulty with it?” The answer is that I just needed a break so I could come back with a different perspective. So if you want your employees to work at their best, give them a break every now and then.
Emotionally a break can do you lots of good as well, particularly if you are in a high stress environment or deal with challenging clients every day. Granted sometimes even dealing with work mates can be emotionally draining, particularly if they are emotionally charged themselves. Therefore a break is crucial and the aim of taking such a break should be to be in an atmosphere of peace and relaxation.
That is not always easy, particularly in our culture where a break from work is a time to catch up on family matters and personal projects. You have a dozen relatives to visit and many projects to follow up on, such that the time off work is even more stressful than being at work. It is no surprise that people come back from leave more tired than before they left, defeating the whole purpose of having taken such a break in the first place.
The solution? Don’t just take leave, take a vacation. This usually entails “a period of time devoted to pleasure, rest, or relaxation,” usually away from home. In many western countries people often go away from home to some other location or country where they can focus on resting, relaxation and having fun. Even in Zambia there are some that have developed this healthy habit, but not many.
I remember going to the Lower Zambezi National Park with my family a few weeks back and not being surprised to find only white people enjoying the magnificent wildlife and tranquil scenery. You can’t help feeling a little out of place as a black person. But it was a great experience and one that more people should plan for and take. I thought to myself “We need to do this more often.”
With the renewal of your mind and your body, do not forget to renew your spirit as well. Reflect on life; mediate, pray, read wholesome material. Give yourself that well-earned break and enjoy the fruits of your labour.