Barton Goldsmith: Time To Take A Break

By Barton Goldsmith
Tribune News Service

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) As therapist Barton Goldsmith points out, “Amgen”, the big bio-tech firm, closes for the week of the Fourth of July, and other companies do similar things, because they recognize the value of time away from the office, and they know that some people won’t stop working unless the doors are locked.

Tribune News Service

Did you take a vacation this summer? All the research shows that people who do not take time off are less productive than those who take a week or two to unwind and unplug.

Otherwise, you will, at best, not be fully engaged in what you are doing or you will, at worst, burn out.

Sometimes that happens without warning. One day you wake up and realize you can’t go into work anymore even though you love it like your second family.

There’s almost nothing I like more than being productive. But to have the energy to be as productive as possible, I have to take time off.

Sometimes I push myself too hard. When self-aware enough to stop, I know how to pull back, but I can overdo it if I don’t. It’s like a runner’s high when I’m working on something that is moving life forward, I don’t want to stop. I get a rush of some great feelings and have lots of energy. But we all need to take a break sometimes.

You may do a bunch of different things and say to yourself, “Well this isn’t really work, because I’m also watching football” or “I’m not at the office and I’m in my sweats.” But your brain is still at your desk or on the job, thinking about what you could do or should have done. And that is hard on your psyche. It’s actually a way of beating yourself up. So is saying you can’t take time off.

It’s good to plan ahead, sometimes way ahead. We got married right around Thanksgiving so that we would always have that week off.

Amgen, the big bio-tech firm, closes for the week of the Fourth of July, and other companies do similar things, because they recognize the value of time away from the office, and they know that some people won’t stop working unless the doors are locked. Is this being a workaholic?

Perhaps, but it goes deeper than that. Some fear losing their job if they leave it for more than a long weekend, or they fear they may lose their edge. Some business people are so anxious about the state of their companies, they are always mentally on guard, and that will take its toll sooner rather than later.

Science has proven that a brain that’s constantly in stimulation and can’t relax will eventually go into overload, and, just like not getting enough sleep, you will start making mistakes. To be at your best, you need time off, and not only for vacations. Those who know the value of a moment of reflection or meditation and do it daily are both more relaxed and more productive throughout the day.

The rest of us need reminders. We have break monitors for meetings, so why not for our lives?

If you get reminders to go to the dentist twice a year, use these as reminders to take a vacation. Use your computer or phone to program reminders to take breaks throughout the day or to take time off from work. Write a reminder on the wall. You need to keep mentally preparing yourself, so you can really let things go and take time off. Make the goal of taking time off a part of your life/work plan, and make it as important as success, exercise, not smoking, and having a loving partner.
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(Dr. Barton Goldsmith, a psychotherapist in Westlake Village, Calif., is the author of “The Happy Couple: How to Make Happiness a Habit One Little Loving Thing at a Time.”)

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