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The Time To Take A Break Is Before You Need One

Updated: Apr 15




Many of us have been taught that we should always work as hard as possible.


I know I certainly was. I used to have the mindset that I needed to push as hard as I could. After all, I chose medicine, and I knew that medical school and residency were among the most difficult experiences there are. But my mindset was – no pain, no gain. I believed that, to get results, I needed to push as hard as possible all the time.


I could get by with this for a while. In fact, I’d actually start feeling really good about myself. Here I was, putting in the work, doing what most people weren’t willing to do. Honestly, it made me feel like a queen – for a while.


The problem was that it was unsustainable.


What it feels like to crash


After a while, I would get overwhelmed. I would find myself reaching for my comfort foods (like ice cream) more and more often. It would get harder and harder to drag myself out of bed. But I didn’t really realize what was happening, and I would ignore the signs at first.


Eventually, I just wouldn’t be able to function. I’d start to isolate myself more and more, spending all of my evenings alone on the couch. Often, I couldn’t even summon up the energy to call my family – talking to someone, even someone I loved, just felt like too much. I call this “going into my cave” – when I’ve pushed myself so hard that I can’t function anymore, and I just retreat from the world.



And I know that I never want to feel like that again.


Different people react to feeling overwhelmed differently. Maybe you’re like me, and you go into your cave when you’ve pushed yourself too hard. Maybe you find yourself becoming clingy and needy, constantly demanding validation and reassurance from your partner or friends. Maybe you start feeling really anxious, or you get easily irritated by small things that didn’t bother you before. However it manifests in your life, the truth is that when you push yourself too hard, you’re eventually going to get overwhelmed.


Keeping your life sustainable


To avoid getting overwhelmed, you need to ensure that you’re maintaining a sustainable workload.


To be clear, I’m not saying that your life should always feel easy, or that you should never put in the work to get what you want. It’s definitely crucial to be intentional about creating your life, and to stay diligent about things like maintaining your health. This is going to require consistent focus.


However, it’s also important to be realistic about how much you can really handle. Over the long term, you simply can’t keep pushing yourself super hard. Between work, caring for family, and the extra responsibilities that so many of us find ourselves signing up for, it’s really common to end up with more on your plate than you can honestly handle.


When you take on too much, you might think that you can manage it. But no one can sustain a state of overwhelm forever. Your system will eventually force you to take a break. Either you’ll find yourself going into your cave like I did, or you’ll get sick from all the stress.


The importance of taking a break – before you need one


Instead of waiting until this happens, it’s better to be intentional about taking breaks. This is why I often say that the time to take a break is before you need one. Don’t wait until you start to feel overwhelmed. Instead, build regular breaks into your schedule.


Remember that taking time for fun and relaxation is important for your health. Sometimes, we’re taught that taking a break is lazy. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Over the long term, working yourself to the bone is a recipe for falling apart. When you do nothing but work, your performance will suffer. You really can’t keep doing your best work – or showing up as your best self for your family – if you’re not taking breaks.



One simple way to do this is through Self-Care Sundays. You simply choose one day a week (Sunday is a convenient day for many people, but you can choose a different day if it works better with your schedule) that’s reserved just for you. You can spend time with family and friends, read a book, go for a hike, get a massage or a mani/pedi – whatever sounds fun and relaxing to you.


When you dedicate one day a week to taking a break, it’s a lot easier to show up on the other six days. Instead of dragging yourself out of bed and forcing yourself to do the things you need to do, you’ll have more energy and focus to take care of things. You’ll also protect your long-term health, greatly reducing your risk of developing dangerous chronic health issues.


Seeking support for developing a sustainable life


I know it isn’t always easy to drop the pattern of overwork that you’ve developed over the years. It was definitely challenging for me, and sometimes I find myself slipping back into those old habits. Fortunately, now that I know what overwhelm feels like, I’m able to catch this early. I know that if I don’t choose to take a break, I’ll eventually be forced to take one anyway. I might as well make the choice to do it now.


If you’re finding it challenging to build in breaks so that your life feels sustainable instead of overwhelming, it can be very helpful to have support from others who have gone through a similar journey. This is why I put so much effort into nurturing our Mind Gut Skin Academy communities. Connecting with other like-minded women can help to keep you motivated and give you valuable advice for your journey. You can find these groups here, and I’d love to see you inside one!

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