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Taking It Easy On Yourself While You're Taking It Easy

Taking It Easy On Yourself While You're Taking It Easy

So you're taking a break from work, but are you being kind to yourself while you take it? In a productivity-driven culture, it's easy to allow self-judgment to sabotage much-needed rest.

Welcome to the 9th edition of This is Not Advice
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During last week's premium workshop on breaking the self-sabotage cycle, I fielded similar questions from two participants. Essentially:

What happens when the thing you're sabotaging is taking a break?
How do you let go of negative self-talk and self-judgment to get the rest you need?

First, that question says a ton about the state of our culture today. We need as much (if not more) help with following through on taking a break as we do following through on a big, hairy project.

Second, I have lots of experience with this!

I've been on a self-imposed "break" since the end of 2021. My break started as a desperate move to regain my mental health. Then, it became a book-writing sabbatical. And then, I kept extending my break by taking on short, lightweight "jobs" that felt manageable given my limited capacity.

I finally have an idea of what kind of work I want to do next—but still no decisions about the operational container I'm going to put around it yet. I still don't have the capacity to make objective-ish decisions about the future.

Have I felt bad about not producing more income over the last two years?

Definitely. Have I judged myself for being crispy and fragile after burning out? You bet. Have I denied help and overindulged in the activities that I love most during this time? Absolutely.

But instead of rushing myself out of this break and into the next big thing, I've stuck with it.

I certainly didn't have a "plan" for my break other than "write book." But upon reflection, I think there are four strategies that have helped me follow through on taking a longer-than-expected break:

  • Acknowledging what I need and affirming what restores me

  • Focusing on the lighter lifts to stretch financially

  • Being honest about what I can go without

  • Being honest about what I can't do

Acknowledging What I Need & Affirming What Restores Me

I'm reminded of my conversation with Mara Glatzel, the author of Needy, from earlier this year. Mara and I talked about the challenge of not only knowing what we need but also acknowledging that we have needs in the first place. Part of the problem, Mara told me, is that we don't create the "time and space to be in relationship with ourselves." Without a close relationship, she explained, it's difficult to "even have a working understanding of what we need to begin with."

At the end of 2021, the only thing I knew was that I absolutely needed to take a break. I needed a break from other people's needs and from self-imposed responsibilities. But that's a "negative" need, right? I knew what I needed to not have rather than any positive need. I couldn't tell you what I needed more of in my life or work.

But by the end of my book-writing sabbatical, I had a better idea of my positive needs. I needed more reading, researching, and long-form writing. I needed a variety of creative outlets. I needed more of the kind of work I enjoy doing in the wee hours of the morning or on weekends.

Acknowledging those needs gave me a path to affirming what restores me. Sure, it's entirely possible to "have too much of a good thing." I knew that the quality of what I was creating would suffer if I didn't pace myself. But I also recognized that the more I abandoned old filters and objectives, the more work (as I was starting to redefine it) actually restored my wholeness.

Part of acknowledging my needs was also recognizing that I could only stretch my savings and book advance so far.

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