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Give Yourself Permission to Take a Break

If you're like me, there's always something to do and never enough time to get it all done.

So the idea of taking a break is almost foreign and with the pandemic shifting the way we think about learning and school and work, the struggle is real.

Being both a parent and an educator fills my life with an abundance of important tasks and learning that certainly keep me busy and that doesn't include my professional life outside of the classroom. This is still true now, years later even when I haven't been in the classroom for a little bit.

Recently I've noticed that I have to give myself permission to let things sit. Reminding myself that the world won't end if an email doesn't get answered immediately or a blog post doesn't get written.

Taking care of feeling good and being present for my son and in his endeavors, as well as for my husband and his work must take priority.

For those of you out there who are over-scheduled and over-worked, here are some tips to give yourself permission to take a break; you deserve it:

  • Set time aside where you can do something you enjoy that is not related to any of the tasks that have to be done. In this time, really be present and try not to think about the other things that feel so urgent.

  • Consider taking your work email off your smartphone so you don't feel compelled to check email in your downtime. The emails can and will wait, especially if it's a weekend, nothing is changing until Monday (I feel a little hypocritical on this one as I check my email incessantly. Always worried that a student needs something and hoping to put out any fires immediately).

  • Make your personal life as important as your work life. There needs to be a balance. This time of year is baseball season and my son is in two leagues. On the weeks I have him, I make it a point to be present at practices and games to show my support. After all, for how much longer is he really going to want me hanging out at his events. The days before he is a teenager are numbered and I don't want to miss any opportunities to be a part of his life.

  • Plan your time well, but be okay with flexibility. Stuff comes up that will require your attention, try to prioritize flexibly and not feel guilty when the plans need to change. Guilt can be a very draining emotion.

  • If you need to spend the day on the couch watching reality television, there is no shame in it. Everyone needs a day once in a while to just shut off. I find that once I allow myself this space, I feel more focused when I get back to work.

When I'm in a space where a break is truly needed, forcing myself to get it done doesn't inspire the best version of what I can accomplish which is counterproductive. If I'm going to have to go back and do it again anyway, why not just take the break and do my best work once I feel more focused?

Productivity can be fickle, but what we put out into the universe is a reflection of ourselves. In order to be our best, we must take care of ourselves in a meaningful way.

How do you create space for downtime? Please share your tips

This post originally ran on my Education Week Teacher in April 2016.

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