Wellness Corner: When to Take a Break

   During my first year of college I bought a beautiful poster of a sparkling, white waterfall surrounded by lush, green scenery and majestic rocks.
   It was gorgeous, and the saying across the bottom read, “The best time to rest is when you don’t have the time.” The saying truly challenged me.
   Ironically, I did not take my poster’s advice and often found myself sick, tired, overwhelmed, crabby, and even at times, making unhealthy choices just to relieve some of the extreme pressure I had allowed myself to live under.
   Some days my poster seemed to mock me with its advice and I assured myself that whoever slapped that ridiculous statement on a picture of a waterfall totally didn’t know my life.
   I learned as time went on, they might not have known my life, but that author did know what they were talking about and anyone would do well to act on the wise advice.
   So how do you know when it is time to take a break? Here are a few indicators: Small, insignificant things bother you for no good reason other than your nerves are a bit short. Simple tasks or errands like reading a chapter for class or cleaning your room become completely overwhelming. You begin to seek distracting or numbing behaviors like watching too much Netflix, compulsive shopping or gaming, or using substances like alcohol to “numb” your stress. Your sleep gets out of whack – either with too much or too little.
   Eating is iffy – you may eat too much, crave and seek sugary foods, starches, or caffeinated drinks. You may eat too little or too much or skip meals, claiming you, “don’t have time.” And key, supportive relationships that matter to you and are reciprocal begin to slip by.
   So now one has to ask, how do you get back on track? Luckily, spring break is close at hand! Plan some intentional, on purpose time to relax and catch up on projects or tasks that are bothering you during the week off. In the meantime, try some of the following strategies:
1. Deep Breathing:
   It sounds obvious, and sometimes annoying, but breathing deeply through your nose and out your mouth slowly not only slows down your heart rate and respiration but brings much needed oxygen to the deepest parts of our lungs. The more stressed out we get, the shallower our breaths become, depleting us of much needed oxygen and trapping germs and stale air in the lungs. Try breathing in for a count of five, let your breath circulate for a count of five, and then deeply exhale for a count of five. Take five of these deep breaths and you will instantly feel more relaxed and grounded.
2. Make a “Bug List:”
   Make a list of all of the tasks, projects, everything that is spinning around in your mind, “bugging” you. When you have this big, scary list, it’s time to prioritize. What absolutely MUST happen today? Prioritize those items first. Is there anything on the list that could be delegated to anyone else? Get those off the list. How about any deadlines that you might be able to extend by a day or two? Ask permission for whatever you need to change. Lastly, plug all the items that you are going to do into your calendar. Be realistic and on-task about what you can accomplish in a day’s time. This is a big list and the tasks may seem daunting at first, but you can do it!
3. Schedule in Some Breaks:
   You might not be able to take a whole day, but how about a morning, afternoon, or evening or even small increments like 10-20 minutes? Set a timer so you won’t get distracted and then actually use that time to do something refreshing like coloring, go for a walk, take a nap, throw a mini dance party, shoot some hoops or go for a quick run. Do not get sucked down the rabbit hole that is the Internet and social media. This is your time to unwind, not to look at what everyone else is doing or get distracted.
4. Get on a Schedule:
   If the schedule has gone out the window, it’s time to do a reset and jump back in. Go to bed and wake up consistently and eat three meals plus a snack or two during the day.
5. Find Creative Ways to Connect:
   If you and your friends are too busy and never have time to spend together, team up for an afternoon or evening of homework time or share your break or meal time together.
   There are great ways to both care for yourself and nurture your important relationships at the same time. Get creative and see what other ways you can come up with to get through the final stretch of the semester.

Ashley Geist-Cusik

Photos courtesy Odyssey Online.