In 1971, McDonald’s launched a massive advertising campaign that focused on women. It included the slogan that has stayed with them even to today: You deserve a break today! While it might be the children’s love of fries and toys that keep families coming back, initially it was giving Moms a break from their home kitchen. The early advertising focused on how clean McDonald’s kitchens were and the high quality of the food. They wanted Moms to relax and know that their family was in good hands, even if just for one meal. It was about giving “her” a break. Get up and get away – to McDonald’s!
The idea of a break is perhaps one of the easiest ways to begin introducing a viable self care plan. It isn’t about over-hauling everything. It’s about integrating a few things in a way that incorporates them into your normal routines and life. We are able to sustain those few critical activities by making them part of our life instead of separate. If there is a sense of removing you (vs. replenishing you) the priorities get more conflicted.
So what actually constitutes a break? Are there rules for this? Yes and no. Let’s look at a couple of examples. A vacation isn’t a break if it doesn’t use a pause button somewhere. If you take your work with you and remain constantly in work mode, it’s not a vacation at all. It is in fact just a change in geography. That’s not to say you can’t mix business with pleasure. But you do need to be able to hit that pause button mentally as well as physically. In other words, wherever you are – be there. Whomever you are with, be with them.
Another example to think about is our attachment to electronic devices today, particularly our phones, e-mail, texts and social media. To take a break means you eliminate the normal distractions and disruptions as well as stepping back from routine. When I began a morning ritual of journaling, reading and prayer several years ago I found that there was a marked difference in how I emerged from that time if my phone was not only turned off but actually out of any line of sight. The break wasn’t complete for me unless the phone was removed.
The most important part for understanding the idea of a break is the recognition that it is about just that – a break. Something stops. Not everything, but something, even if just for a moment. Think about the theatre. In between the acts of the play there are breaks. It’s not about what happens on the break. It’s about what isn’t happening. The stage is empty. You are separated from it until it resumes. The same applies with sports. Each year the Super Bowl half-time has grown in its own importance within the event. But its core purpose is not to entertain us; it is to give the players a break. They leave the field. They leave the battle. Even though they may mentally still be thinking about the game, they have a reprieve from the physical demands of the game.
One of the best ways to make certain you are getting the breaks that you need is identifying where you need them. If you work on a computer for hours on end as I do, it’s important to take physical breaks as well as mental ones. It’s not enough for me to shut down the work and socialize online. I need to do as the McDonald’s slogan asserted: Get up and get away. I need to stretch and move.
Here are some thoughts on how to incorporate breaks that may serve you:
- Sometimes we simply need a change of pace. We just need to slow down or perhaps speed up. The break can actually be something that surges the adrenalin. Something changes.
- A change of place can be effective but it’s critical that the place is something that engages us differently. Moving from one chair to another chair may not be enough. However moving to a chair outside and taking in fresh air and sunshine makes that more possible.
- Sometimes we need a change in the people we’re around. If you are always with the same people at work and in your social life, you may want to consider introducing a “break” and engage new and interesting people.
- What do you talk about? Even a change in conversation is a nice break. If you always talk about work, make it a point to create opportunities to talk about something else. That’s a break because it engages your brain differently. It can also be a nice break to let the other person guide the conversation. I love chatting with my grand-girl for just this reason. I love the way her brain works. It fascinates me and fully engages me.
- What are you reading? This has proven highly effective for me because I am a voracious reader. I tend to read books primary about personal development and achievement. I found my appetite waning on that front and realized it was because the menu had gotten too closely aligned only to my work. I missed fiction. I started incorporating great story telling back into the mix and now those books are in fact a break for me. I immerse myself in the story and come back to my own refreshed.
These are just five things to consider. There are dozens more. Even thinking about what to do with your breaks can become part of the mix. Make this fun. Make this about you, about stepping into a moment that washes over you and leaves you refreshed.
Live today like you want tomorrow to be.
Live well. Take your break today!