Ever leave work so drained when you get home you just want to sit on the couch and stare mindlessly at the television?
You may have had great intentions to have a fun, exciting evening (have some friends over, go for a drive, try a new restaurant, play a board game with the kids, make an amazing dinner, or whatever).
Yet you find yourself utterly and completely exhausted and have nothing left to give?
You aren’t alone.
Millions of people have this same experience.
In fact, this used to be me.
I used to work long, non-stop days. I was routinely on-call so even when I was at home in the evenings or the weekends I was still working. When I was in the office I would work through my breaks and lunches. I would respond to emails, type up a report, eat while at a meeting, multi-task. In part this was the expectation in my workplace, in part this was my own pressure to succeed in my position.
Then I was put on jury duty.
The first day of the trial they released us at noon and asked us to return at 1:30pm. An hour and a half lunch break... I almost didn’t know what to do with so much time.
I recall sitting down and eating lunch that first day and having the realization that I hadn’t actually taken a lunch break in many years, let alone an hour and a half lunch break.
I ate, walked around downtown, sat in the sunshine by the fountain outside the courthouse, read a book, texted some friends, checked in at work, and still had time to spare.
At the end of the day I remember being surprised at how much energy I had. I still had “worked” almost a full day, in fact I had a much lengthier commute while on jury duty, but by the time I got home at that night I was full of energy.
This was a stark difference between my typical workdays where I worked 8:30 am – 5:00 pm and by the time I got home I was drained, exhausted and unable to do much beyond sitting on the couch watching TV mindlessly.
Looking back, jury duty was my wake up call.
I realized then how draining it was on me to try to push through eight hours without taking breaks. I also realized that I would hit a wall during my day where my focus, attention and quality of work diminished. Sometimes this wall was in the late afternoon, sometimes in the morning.
Without taking care of myself I wasn’t able to be the best possible employee. I would turn to caffeine in the afternoon to improve my focus. Music to shift my mood. Anything to help get me by. But something was missing.
I wasn’t caring for myself emotionally and it was draining my energy. Actually depleting it.
Something as small as working through a 5-10 minute break was sucking away my energy.
Over the last year, through the support of colleagues and business coaching, I’ve identified better how to care for myself. I’ve learned how VITAL it is for me to take breaks so that I can be the best therapist possible. Even five minute breaks here and there recharge and rejuvenate me.
Don’t get me wrong. I still don’t take leisurely hour and a half lunches like the court house does! Sometimes it’s just 15 minutes. Most often it’s 30-45 minutes. I enjoy my meal, read a book, chat with a colleague, or go for a walk outside. Take a few moments to unwind, let go, slow down.
I return to my office energized and ready for the rest of my day.
It’s easy to get caught up in a company culture that discourages taking breaks, even if it’s a subtle and unwritten policy. Recognizing how this culture impacts your productivity, happiness and energy may be the key to a healthier balance in your life.
What is the belief system you are operating on that keeps you from taking breaks regularly or, in particular, not taking a lunch break? Is this belief system health for you to maintain? If not, then why do you?
Fueling your ‘tank’ with small breaks and self-care throughout your day will give you more energy, make you more productive, and give you a general sense of happiness that lasts long past your work day ends.
What are you willing to do to create more balance in your life, to give you more energy at the end of the day?
If you would need some help finding that balance in your life, click here to arrange a free, no-pressure, telephone consult. I’d love to hear how mixing up your day and incorporating breaks is changing your energy and attitude!
Adriana Joyner, LMFT, is a Sacramento Area therapist specializing in counseling for people healing from painful life experiences and traumas, support for individuals exploring their gender identity and expression, and the LGBTQIA community. Her office is located in Gold River, CA located off Highway 50 at Sunrise Blvd. For more information or to schedule a consultation, please call (916) 547-3997 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.