Winter Philosophy, Winter Research, Winter Tips

Embracing the Break

Jenny and I each took vacations this winter, and where we each chose to go is pretty telling. If you’ll remember, the premise of this blog is that Jenny loves winter, while my relationship to it has been more tenuous. Winter is Jenny’s soul season, while I’m more of an autumn girl. So where did we each decide to go on vacation this winter?

Jenny and her husband spent a few days in the mountains of snowy Vermont, while I just got back from a trip visiting my husband’s family in the desert of Arizona. Each of us took a break from our everyday lives, but we did in in vastly different ways. And while it may seem counter intuitive to talk about finding the joy in the weather, the coziness in the cold, while I jet off to warm (er) weather and sunshine, there’s something interesting that happens when you take a vacation, a break from your everyday life: You start to appreciate your everyday life even more.

Jenny and I each took vacations that fed our souls in ways we needed. For Jenny, living in Maryland during the winter months is rough, because she doesn’t get the snow and cold that refreshes her soul. For me, the weather of the western Pennsylvania tundra wears me down, no matter how much I try to stay positive and joyful. So a reset to a place that’s completely different (and full of sand and cacti) refreshes my resolve.

I think we can tend to focus so much on finding the joy in our circumstances, no matter what! that we miss the value in taking a break, too. And a break doesn’t just mean a vacation, although those are nice and we’re very thankful for them. Perhaps a break is a movie night, or a day trip, or a reading sesh. Whatever your everyday is like, no one can stay focused and motivated 24/7. We all need a break. That’s why we have sleep built into our DNA. But so often, instead of recognizing our need for a change and refresh, we muscle through the pain. With steely resolve, we insist we’re fine, that we can keep going, no matter what.

Of course, there’s a time when we have to attend to things that need attention. There’s a time for emergencies and burning the midnight oil. But just as often, we feel guilty for resting, for embracing the break, when we really need it. We forget that taking a break is scientifically proven to improve concentration, mental health, and decision making.

Taking effective breaks also takes a lot of self-knowledge. Maybe, like Jenny, you know you need the very opposite of what everyone else is doing. Maybe, like me, you need to get a little sunburnt to feel alive again.

Whatever it is that feeds your soul, do it. Embrace the break, even when culture is telling you to hustle through it. Embrace the break, even when your mind tries to rationalize guilt into you. Embrace the break, for the good of your soul.

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