Reframing Our Outlook on Taking Breaks
Too many of us write off taking a break—be it a full-blown vacation or an hour away from email—as an indicator of laziness or a lack of ambition. This is to our detriment, says Dr. Frank Lipman, who views breaks as an essential part of health. The key is to reframe how we look at pulling back. “When you take a break, or as I call it ‘deliberate rest,’ it’s important to realize you’re not doing nothing,” says Dr. Lipman. “Rather you are actually giving yourself a chance to rebuild and return to balance.”
5 Reasons Why Breaks Are Essential (and How to See Them Differently)
Breaks Are Necessary for Balance
We need to balance the yang and yin in life, says Lipman. “The yang is the striving and being busy that our culture prides on—all this succeeding and moving ahead.” There is some benefit to that, of course, but it needs to be balanced with restoration. “That balance is really important for one’s wellbeing—and taking a break is part of that balance.”
Breaks Are Not Passive but Active
Breaks, or “deliberate rest,” are as essential as sleep. “Sleep is not a passive activity,” says Lipman, who notes the healing and restoration that happens from shut-eye. In a similar-but-unique way, this happens when we pull back and take a pause. “These restorative breaks give your body time to refuel and get ready for the next period of pushing yourself. Otherwise, we will burn out.”
Breaks Come in Many Sizes
If you’re able to take a full week or more off, that’s great, says Lipman. “In South Africa, where I grew up, everyone had six weeks of vacation. And many cultures close in August.” But not everyone can take a chunk of time, or even a day, off. “I understand the predicament some people are in,” he says, emphasizing that we can still implement rest for mind and body in daily ways. Spending five or 10 minutes doing breathing exercises or meditation, in nature, or “connecting on a human level” with loved ones all count as break. “It’s about switching off your mind and getting away from that busy, busy, busy mind that we’re addicted to.”
Breaks Also Come in Many Forms
Just as there are endless varied lengths, there are many ways to take it easy. Dr. Lipman put different types of rest in different buckets:
- Physical rest: This can include taking a hot bath, doing restorative yoga, or engaging in breathing techniques.
- Mental rest: This can include meditation, listening to music, and walking in nature.
- Spiritual rest: This can simply be making time to connect with something larger than yourself, either through prayer, time in nature, or another soul-restoring activity.
- Social rest: This can include spending time with people “who make you feel good and rejuvenate you,” says Lipman. He gives the example of spending time with his young grandson: He admits it can be physically tiring “because he doesn’t stop for a minute,” but Lipman says time with his grandson offers other aspects of rejuvenation that are equally as essential.
And Lastly… Breaks Are the Way for a Healthier Future
Lipman points to a recent study in Iceland that touted the benefits of switching to a four-day work week. The results, which showed increased productivity and decreased stressed, counter the systemic idea that “busy-ness is highly effective,” says Lipman. “We see rest as a gift or a luxury.” But that is not the case: “We need to slow down.” This not only benefits us individually, he continues, but humanity as a whole.
Frank Lipman, MD, is a pioneer and internationally recognized expert in the fields of Integrative and Functional Medicine and a best-selling author. He is the founder and director of Eleven Eleven Wellness Center and Chief Medical Officer of The-Well, both in New York City. Dr. Lipman received his initial medical training in South Africa and emigrated to the United States in 1984. He became board certified in internal medicine after serving as Chief Medical Resident in his final year of residency at Lincoln Hospital in New York City. He is a best selling author of 6 books, including The New Health Rules: Simple Changes to Achieve Whole-Body Wellness; How To Be Well, The 6 keys to a Happy and Healthy Life; and his latest The New Rules of Aging Well: A Simple Program for Immune Resilience, Strength, and Vitality. To learn more visit drfranklipman.com.