Expert Author Susan Leigh
How often do you relax and take a break? Statistics reveal that increasing numbers of us are loathe to take time away from work, with some 19 million days of UK holiday entitlement remaining untaken in one year alone. One in five of us work seven extra hours each week of unpaid overtime. And these figures only record those in salaried employment.
Business owners and sole traders rarely think about set hours or what time they should be clocking off from work. It may be only when their health starts to suffer, relationships with family and friends are affected or they start to feel resentful and jaded that there's any motivation to change things.
Allowing time to relax and take a break is important on many levels. A recent Labour Force Survey discovered that 45% of all working days, 11.7 million last year in total, were lost to stress-related issues. The impact of not relaxing and taking a break can be hugely significant in every area of life.
- One reason why so many of us work so hard is to provide a good living for our family and make them proud of us. But spending less and less time together, giving increasing importance to clients or customers, or being constantly irritable or distracted may be impacting on the quality of those relationships. Equally, we need to take some time for ourselves, have a break, pursue our hobbies and interests or simply relax and do nothing at all. Taking time to nurture the creative and non-work side of ourselves brings another dimension of satisfaction and fulfillment.
- It's been found that when we do take a break, even for short periods, perhaps for a short stroll or a drink of water, we often return with fresh ideas and insights into problem areas that may have been troubling us. People often say, don't make a hasty decision, sleep on it and see how you feel in the morning. Equally, detaching and taking a break can be beneficial. It allows time for our minds to still, new thoughts and ideas to surface, and for us to take a little time away from the 'coal face'.
- Chasing our dreams, challenging ourselves and being successful are all well and good. It's important to say 'yes' and step outside our comfort zone sometimes but it's also relevant to say 'no', and claim time and energy for ourselves too. Including every area of life in our focus matters. Let's consider some helpful ways to relax and take a break.
- If work is usually a mental, cerebral activity a break can provide the opportunity for alternative activity like physical exercise and time to work and tire those muscles. Sleep-related issues and our quality of sleep can be affected when we're tired mentally, but not physically, or vice versa. If work is largely mental introduce sport, walks, a round of golf, visit to the gym and maybe add a social element by sharing those times with friends or family.
If you work in mainly a physical capacity join a quiz night, locate your board games, start doing the crossword or join a book club and find sociable ways to have a break and spend time exercising mentally.
- Sometimes we need to learn to relax gradually, maybe by feeling there's a purpose to it. Volunteering, perhaps for a charity, youth group or community project can introduce something different but also add value to life. We move our focus away from work targets, profit, earning, and, as such, redirect our energy into something with a less business-focused angle. Doing this provides space to explore new skills, work with a different agenda and meet new people, those with similar interests to ourselves.
- Relax and take a break with family. Learn to have proper conversations, keep up-to-date with each other's news, opinions and stories. Share your challenges with them, they're the people closest to you, and let them help. They may be able to ease the pressure in different areas of your life, resulting in better communications and an improved bond.
- Consider outsourcing some of your commitments. You may be able to buy yourself a break by hiring help with domestic chores, like cleaning, ironing or gardening, or by paying someone to do those work-related tasks that are not your forte. Paying the best person to do the job can be money well spent, resulting in a more professional approach which may even generate new business. Then use your free time well by having an afternoon pleasing yourself.
- In the evenings switch off technology and determine not to turn it back on unless there's an emergency situation which needs monitoring. Do relaxing things, like taking a walk, listening to music, reading a book, spending time with those you care about; all investments in those other important areas of your life. Sometimes even decline invitations and occasionally have a night off if you've been over-committed with social engagements. Then use the time to indulge, eat your favourite foods, have a relaxing bath and an early night.
Taking personal responsibility for your health and wellbeing, both mental and physical, gives you back control. After all, even airlines say in times of turbulence first put the oxygen mask on your own face. Then you're in a better position to help others.
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