Burnout is a real thing, and you may not even know you’re experiencing it until you break focus for a second and it hits you like a ton of bricks. It’s the middle of the school semester, it’s the time of year where the holidays are upon us, and it’s also late in this tragic year of 2020, so there is a lot of wear on everyone right about now. It’s understandable to feel overwhelmed, and to feel like you have to go, go, go!, but it’s important to take a moment or two to yourself in the middle of it. Multiple times, too. You can’t do your best or be your best if you don’t allow your body and mind to catch up in the race you’re running.
I know when it feels like you have to do everything and then some, it doesn’t seem like you have time to even breathe, let alone spend a couple minutes doing anything else. But, for the same reason that we must take water breaks and rest times between workout sets or track sprints, we must take mental breaks from the project at hand. Whether you’re studying for class, working on a big assignment for your employer, filling out applications, working on creative projects, or literally anything else that you need to focus on, you should break it up to maintain optimal mental output and, most importantly, heath.
There’s a focusing practice called the Pomodoro Technique, consisting of focusing on a task for a set period of time – length being relative – then taking a short break before focusing again for the same time period. Usually, it’s about four focus sessions broken up by three short breaks, with a longer fourth one after the last session. Some people work for 18 minutes, 25 minutes, 30 minutes or up to an hour straight, and then follow it with a three, five, eight, or ten minute break, respectively. It is what you make it, so if you try this out, don’t feel stuck to these time frames – or stuck at all. Your life is more than the work you have to do, so remember to care for it and live it.
I recently tried the technique out this semester as all my classes are online, and my desk in the corner of my room, which is in the corner of my apartment, is the only place I find myself these days. Something needs to break up the monotony, even if it feels like I don’t have the time to do that. I didn’t want to take breaks when school and life got really hectic really fast, and then all of a sudden it was days of nonstop and I felt less human. I was drained in every way, with every minute that passed by. I learned my lesson as I sat there at my desk, head throbbing, eyes aching and mind refusing to let me use it. This isn’t news to anyone, I’m sure, but to avoid mental burnout, you have to have a moment where your mind is not working. I found it hard to enjoy what I was supposed to be passionate about, and that’s when I knew I was doing it all wrong. I wanted to be excited about my work again.
Take that break, even if it’s short. Your exam won’t sneak up behind you while you’re on it. You won’t forget what you were doing as the clock moves just a little bit. You won’t lose momentum; it may even boost it. If the break is just getting up and taking a stroll from your kitchen and back, staring out the window for five minutes, or reading a book not related to your task to make sure the mind is active – if you feel like turning it off for a second will set you behind – that is enough. Physically and mentally draining work requires a break. Being effective and retaining important information for your passions requires a mind and body in top shape! So take care of it, take care of you. You deserve it. And your capabilities will show through all the more, showing everyone who’s boss.