Taking a Break

“Give me a break.” In the vernacular, ‘give me a break’ means “Oh, come on.” On the other hand, taking a break has no second meaning. Does that mean it’s more serious? Taking a break is so important that it is mandated by law to protect employees from being forced to work without eating or taking restroom stops.

Taking a Break from WritingTaking breaks makes us more productive. Coffee/tea breaks make life livable. Meditation breaks fill the screen of your mind with a pleasant je ne sais quoi. However it is positioned, taking a break helps balance body, mind and spirit.

One way of taking a break is to have someone do your work for you. Wow, wouldn’t that be cool? This strategy is usually a win-win. Why? The person doing your work often does it better because they don’t consider it work. They like it! And they’re often paid for it, which is good for the economy.

When we’re super busy, we like to convince ourselves that breaks are unnecessary. Been there, done that. However in my saner moments, I figure that if we weren’t supposed to take breaks, we wouldn’t have been designed to eat or to sleep.

“I think I can, I think I can,” says the little train filled with good intentions as it chugs up the steep hill. Of course we all think we can. We’re good. We’re professionals. We’re adults. Mostly, though, we’re invincible. But we’re not. Scientists know. The bad guys are certain: Starve people and keep them from sleeping, and they’ll crack.

Trend Alert: Taking breaks must be important: Google returned 729,000,000 results on the keyword string “taking a break.” This post will make at least 729,000,001! If those were seconds, the time to open up (without even reading) each of the separate results would require 12,150,000 minutes. Gee.  That’s 202,500 hours or 8,437 days. That comes out to 23 years. Taking a break is a very significant concept, evidently. We all need breaks, and more than one every twenty-three years.

Taking a break is essential. Standing up, taking a walk, stretching, reading a book for five or ten minutes. Meditating. Seeing a movie. Going out for a meal. Vacationing.

Breaks refresh, renew, revive, reinvigorate, restore, recharge, revitalize. We all know this. We just need to make time for it, schedule it on our calendars, find a break partner, and make taking a break a habit.

Or we’ll break.

Four O’Clock in the Morning

There’s an arc of every day.  It’s part of the rhythm that does not bear toe-tapping, unless you pay obsessive attention to the music of time passing. Having just listened to Rives’  The Museum of Four in the Morning TED Talk, I now know this four-in-the-morning time of day has slipped into our consciousness through an amazing array of songs, poems, births, sound clips and more. But why is it so popular?!

I am not a four-in-the-morning person. It’s clearly after three a.m., and strictly before five. I get that. Five is, in fact, a reasonable time to wake up. Really. Especially if you have logged seven hours, starting at 9 o’clock the previous night. Who does that, though?

Songs and soundbites notwithstanding,  it seems to me that four o’clock in the morning detaches the night from the next day. Absolutely 3 a.m. is still night. But four? It’s a catch… a ladder’s top rung before descending to the waiting earth of the next waking day. It’s the window almost shut or almost open. It’s the glass half full. This, in essence, is its allure. It beckons. It promises. It is Groucho and Billy Collins, and Rives. It’s THE sound bite.

It’s not a time of day that you think about until you do. And then it drives you nuts. Ask Rives.

Plan B

What is a Plan B, besides a morning after pill?

It’s a backup. It’s the spare tire. It’s what you should have behind your Plan A.

Plan B’s are scary because we rarely even have a Plan A.  Why not? Companies usually have Plan A’s. Or Plans. Do they have Plan B’s? Shouldn’t they? What happens if the new product fails? What happens if the production line slows or stops? What do they do if they cannot obtain the part they need?  What’s their Plan B?

What’s your personal Plan B for losing your job in a reorganization? What’s the Plan B for retirement if the kids come back home with your grandchildren in tow? Or THEY lose a job in a reorganization and need a place to stay “for a little while.”

If you don’t have a Plan A, you won’t ever have a Plan B.

So what are your plans for the weekend?

Victims of Our Own Unconscious Behaviors

The ThinkerI recently stumbled upon the Chris Jordan 2008 TED talk  wherein Chris made artwork out of our collective unconscious behaviors.  With a smoking skeleton and pills formed into a surprising circular array, he exposed the following and other punishing statistics…not to punish us, but to inform us.

  • 400,000 people died from smoking in 2008.
  • 65,000 teenagers would start smoking in one month in 2008
  • 213,000 Emergency Room visits resulted from prescription drug abuse

How are we doing against these data today?  More importantly, if the unconscious behaviors Chris exposed in artful form come from our individual denials, is there something we can do about it?  Not only do we bear the cost to our national psyche, but also to our healthcare costs, and unnecessary loss of life for our young people.

We’re moving in the wrong direction.

  • 443,000 died from smoking in 2011, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC)
  •  114,000 teenagers started smoking in one month in 2011 (CDC)
  •  1.4 million Emergency Room visits resulted from prescription drug use in 2011 (Source: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration).

I am reminded of the novel Lord of the Flies.  I think the book, published in 1954, has been required reading in the California high schools for decades,  and tracks closely to Chris Jordan’s reflection of our collectively destructive detritus.  The Lord of the Flies author, William Golding,  states that his novel’s theme is “an attempt to trace defects of society back to the defects of human nature.  The moral is that the shape of a society must depend on the ethical nature of the individual and not on any political system, however apparently logical or respectable.”

Chris’s and our question of ourselves is: How conscious are we as individuals? What can we change today about ourselves that will change society, but more importantly, make us better individuals? Change is hard.   Becoming conscious is the first step.