How to Take a Break (A Real One)

Taking a Break (A Real One)

Ask yourself this: Would you know if you’re exhausted? Do you have an accurate internal gauge or barometer to honestly track your level of burnout or exhaustion? Do you find yourself getting to the point just after exhaustion when you end up doing something about it – reactively rather than proactively?

When we get caught up in the day-to-day flow of life, it’s hard to see that those things in our life, and stress, have a gradual effect on our well-being, be it emotional, psychological or mental. We’re usually forced to attend to what’s right in front of us, and often neglect or overlook what’s happening inside of ourselves while we’re attending to everything in our lives, until we find ourselves in an exhausted state of being. So many of us are so out of touch with our bodies, that we don’t know how stressed we are until some stress reaction happens, or our body starts to push back in the form of pain or other chronic issues.

Dealing with Exhaustion

Sometimes, exhaustion is there, lurking under the surface, and gets neglected in the day-to-day hubbub. To admit to yourself that you’re tired or exhausted means to actually stop in your tracks and connect with yourself and your experience, which is hard for a lot of people.

It’s not weak to be or feel exhausted. For a lot of guys, they feel the eternal need to push through stress and exhaustion to get things done, or to be productive. Dealing with exhaustion is actually generative, meaning that if you fully attend to it, it can restore you back to your previous levels of energy and health. Sometimes we have to let ourselves fully rest and renew before we’re back to functional levels in our lives, and allowing ourselves to just be exhausted and really rest is one way. It’s no different than getting the sleep you need, or keeping your body fed.

To overlook it and to “man up” through it, there will be negative effects – maybe not today, or tomorrow, but at some point down the line. Maybe your marriage starts to erode over time, or maybe the relationships with your kids suffer because you’re working too much or not available physically or emotionally. Maybe your health starts to worsen over time, or creates chronic stress-induced problems. To nip those things in the bud before hand, and be proactive about your stress and exhaustion, is a way to prevent those things (or their severity) from hitting you later on.

Turning work off when you’re not working (e.g. not worrying about work when you don’t have to) is something that’s important in terms of being present and managing stress. If you’re trying to be present and fully enjoy yourself with those you’re around, it helps to not have other things, like work and what you need to be doing, on your mind. When you’re in your head worrying about work, you’re just adding more stress to the mix, and you’re not being available to the things and people you need to be there for.

Finding Real Rest

Do you know how you really – and truly – find relaxation and rest? Do you know how to identify and find the things that help you feel revitalized and filled up? Some guys don’t know this about themselves, and don’t know how to find the things, activities and people that can help them deal with exhaustion and stress. It’s critical to create an arsenal of those things so that you have them to fall back on when you need them – when you’re needing to deal with your stress and exhaustion. Some examples of these things are: yoga, meditation, nature walks, friends, confidants, exercise, eating well, simply not doing or planning anything, talking through your stress and exhaustion, doing deep breathing exercises, planning a chunk of time out of your schedule to do nothing, or do something fun, etc.

The opposite idea of that is also to try to minimize the things, situations and people that drain your time, spirit, energy and life. I think being able to say ‘no’ or negate these energy drainers is important, even if you can’t get away completely from those things, events or people. And, it’s also about stepping up and changing those things if you can’t avoid them altogether, like setting healthy boundaries with others, changing your relationship or thinking to the stressful event/person/situation, or finding some better way to communicate your needs and feelings so that those things can possibly change for you.

It seems as if our culture is making it more and more acceptable to work 50 and 60-hour weeks, and making that a cultural badge of honor. We work so much and are neglecting other areas of our lives that are equally – if not more – important, and I think that needs to change, and something’s gotta give. If we can help it, it’s not healthy, productive or responsible to contribute to that cultural expectation, and if you are, ask yourself why you’re contributing to it in the first place. We’re sacrificing ourselves, our health and our relationships to more stress and exhaustion, so how good are we for the extra time we’ve got? Considering the role of stress and exhaustion in your life, you might be motivated to take some action and make some changes in your life to mitigate those things as best as you can.

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About Jason

As "The Man That Men Will Talk To," Jason Fierstein, MA, LPC is a private practice counselor and psychotherapist for men and couples in the greater Phoenix, Arizona, area. He works with struggling men to find happiness in their lives, and with their wives.
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