The Benefits of Taking a Break

A sudden death in the family has kept me away from this blog for a while, much to my frustration. I am used to plowing ahead and getting things done under even the toughest conditions, but this time I have been forced to take a break. It has not been easy to slow down, but knowing that it’s a healthy choice—and also my only choice—I have had to find a way to be okay with being still. And patient. Here is how I made it work, and what I learned along the way.

If I obsessed about the calendar and what I had expected to do, I only made myself feel miserable. Instead, I dropped that perspective and reminded myself that I was now on an emotional journey that was completely out of my control. Once I did that everything changed, and I was able to surrender to the process instead of fighting against it. This outlook “reset” has helped a great deal, and I repeat it to myself constantly whenever I have the urge to take on big projects that require energy I don’t have but want to have. This too shall pass, and my energy really will return if I take time to rest.

When you’re in grief, no one is going to be there all the time reminding you to take it easy. But if you can remind yourself, and then find a neutral way to inform others when they make requests of you, they immediately understand. Not only that, but they are grateful to you for modeling healthy behavior, and respect you for being able to prioritize your personal life when it matters most. Everybody wants a better work-life balance, and we all admire those who can pull it off, but saying a simple, clear, compassionate “no” is still not easy for most of us. It does get easier with practice, however.

Pondering the big questions in life has helped re-focus my career goals. I am fortunate to have work I love, and would have been happy continuing on with my plans indefinitely. But having less energy meant I could only do what was absolutely essential for my business and long-term goals. I was able to complete things that resonated deeply for me, and the rest I had to either let go or put on hold until my energy returned. This process, though painful, has resulted in some surprisingly positive changes to my business plan. It is now more grounded, realistic, and vibrant than before—and all from noticing what I couldn’t do.

Eventually, your energy and curiosity will return. Meanwhile, your web presence doesn’t have to completely languish. Being unable to write has been particularly galling to me as a writer, as I constantly think up new articles to write, yet have not been able to complete any of them. I am able to read, though, and found that I could manage once every few days to link to an interesting article on my Facebook page, or comment on Twitter about a trending topic. It was a workable compromise that kept my social networks updated, yet required very little effort. And most days that is enough.

I am still in the strange swamp-waters of grief (those who are curious can see my blog posts here and here), though there are pockets of clarity (like today), moments when I find a patch of firm ground and am able to carry on as though nothing major has changed. When loss hits your nearest and dearest, remember to give yourself a year—if not two—to fully move through the cycles of grief and bereavement. It is like walking underwater at times, and everything feels strange when it is not excruciating. Try to remember: the journey is not under your control, but if you can be patient and move with it, you will find unexpected treasures along the way that will benefit you in all ways.

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