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40 Ways to Give Yourself a Break

“Health is the greatest possession. Contentment is the greatest treasure. Confidence is the greatest friend.” ~Lao Tzu

It’s common among overachiever types: we like to push ourselves.

Sometimes it’s to get from A to B. Sometimes it’s to create the illusion of change when in all reality you’re just spinning your wheels. Sometimes it’s simply to avoid standing still and accepting the moment as is.

All that pushing can feel so smart and productive until you’re exhausted, dehydrated, overextended, overwhelmed, or otherwise ready to snap. I’ve been in all those spots—and not just way back when, in a time when I was some completely different person.

There are still days when my instinct is to push myself to the limits for reasons I may or may not fully understand in the moment. I suspect we all do this from time to time: spread ourselves way too thin while trying to expand our world only to realize there’s only so far we can stretch.

I know there’s only so much my body, mind, and spirit can take, so I try to learn from these days as I go. Since I haven’t yet discovered the secret formula for complete balance, I’ve come up with a few simple ways to give myself a break when I’ve been pushing myself too hard.

If you feel physically, mentally, emotionally, or even digitally exhausted, these tips may help:

How to Give Yourself a Break Physically

1. Allow yourself a little extra sleep, whether it’s by going to bed a half-hour earlier or by sleeping in an extra fifteen minutes and then skipping your usual morning coffee stop.

2. Take a day off from exercising if you usually run, go to the gym, or participate in some type of aerobic class.

3. Skip the stairs and take the elevator or escalator—sometimes it’s perfectly OK to choose the path of least resistance!

4. Replace strenuous exercise with something less intense, like restorative yoga.

5. Relax in a sauna or steam room to relax your muscles and sweat out chemicals that build up in your body.

6. Utilize a detoxifying cleanse to clear out toxins and give your digestive organs a break.

7. Take a break from alcohol, processed food, and sugar if a cleanse feels too extreme.

8. Get a massage or trade massages with someone you love. Massages are not only relaxing; they’ve also been proven to minimize anxiety, boost the immune system, and reduce depression and anxiety.

9. Take a long, hot bath to take weight off your weary muscles and joints.

10. Be mindful of your posture at your desk at work and take breaks to walk around and stretch. This one is smart on any day—hunching over our computers can cause major back and neck pain!

How to Give Yourself a Break Mentally

11. Take some time to meditate, even if it’s just for five minutes.

12. Use a deep breathing technique to calm your nervous system and clear your thoughts.

13. Give yourself a complete day without any financial worries; put your statements and bills in a drawer and save all eBills for tomorrow. (Trust me—they won’t go anywhere. Just don’t make this one a consistent practice!)

14. Set aside some time to play and be childlike.

15. Sing, paint, dance, or otherwise express yourself creatively. It’s awfully hard to stress and over-think when you’re engaged in something fun and expressive.

16. Go outside and immerse yourself in nature. Feel the ground or grass underneath your feet and focus on being present on enjoying your environment and the scenery.

17. Close down the multiple tabs on your computer screen and instead single-task. If you’re writing, write. If you’re editing a video, edit. Give yourself permission to get into a state of flow and let all distractions slip away.

18. Indulge in a guilty pleasure. Read a trashy magazine, go shopping, drink a latte, or do something else that always pulls you out of your head—most things are fine in moderation!

19. Take a day off from negative, draining people—even the ones you love. If your downer cousin needs your help, you can call her back tomorrow.

20. Simply sit. Choose to do nothing—don’t read, watch TV, surf the web, or in any way consume information. Just be.

How to Give Yourself a Break Emotionally

21. Metaphorically release emotions. Michelle Chambers offered a few strong ideas to let go of negative feelings, including using window crayons to write them on windows, mirrors, and shower tiles.

22. Practice observing your feelings instead of getting caught up in them, as I explored in the post How to Deal with Uncomfortable Feelings and Create Positive Ones.

23. Utilize progressive muscle relaxation, which involves tensing and then relaxing one muscle group at a time, starting with your face and then working down to your feet.

24. Count successes. Make a note of all the things you’ve done well, and give yourself permission to be proud instead of dissatisfied with what you haven’t done.

25. Replace regrets with dreams. Whenever you start thinking about what you should have done, shift your focus to what you plan to do now. It’s far more empowering and a lot less draining!

26. Create a worry window—20 minutes in the morning and early evening, for example. If you start stressing at a different time, remind yourself that you can worry all you want once it’s time.

27. Make it a label-free day. Every time you catch yourself judging yourself or a situation as bad or inadequate—things that always cause anxiety—consciously choose to avoid labeling anything. It’s a lot easier to stay calm when we limit our negative self talk.

28. Cry if you need to and are able. I’ve written about the benefits of crying before—it can help you release chemicals and hormones and create a more relaxed, positive state of mind.

29. Write down the things you’re grateful for. It doesn’t need to be a list of traditional blessings. It can include your morning coffee or the fact that your disagreeable coworker called in sick. Identifying the things that have brought us joy is a powerful way to create more.

30. Eliminate should for a day. Every time you catch yourself getting caught up in how you should be or things should be, tell yourself, “It is what it is.” Once we accept what is we’re in a much better place to create things as we’d like them to be.

Silouhette on the Water

How to Give Yourself a Break from Technology

31. Make a conscious decision to spend the first portion of your morning tech-free. Don’t power up your computer or turn on the TV. Instead try some suggestions from Srinivas Rao’s post How to Wake Up Every Morning on Top of the World.

32. Commute without technology. Instead of listening to voicemails or tweeting on your iPhone, read a physical book or write in your journal. Use this small window of time to connect with yourself.

33. Take a completely tech-free hour—turn your cell phone off, shut down your computer, and put your iPod in a drawer.

34. Plan unproductive downtime by taking a walk, for example. Research shows this type of disconnected time is crucial to learning and forming memories.

35. Simplify email so that you spend less time checking messages and more time engaging in activities that feel fulfilling.

36. Identify what you’re really seeking from technology—whether it’s acceptance, acknowledgment, or stimulation—and then look for ways to get that without logging on (as previously mentioned in my post about last year’s Wisdom 2.0 Conference).

37. Store gadgets in a place where you can’t see them when you’re not using them so they don’t in any way consume your energy or thoughts.

38. Technology fast on a weekend day. This probably isn’t an option during the week—and I’ll admit this is challenging for me even on the weekend—but it’s worth trying: a day without any gadgets.

39. Give your technology a bed time. I know from experience how pre-bed web surfing can negatively impact sleep. Decide in advance at what point you’ll put all your gadgets away, and then choose other relaxing activities before you head to sleep.

40. Decide for a day that nothing is urgent. Emails, phone calls, text messages—unless it’s an actual life-or-death situation, it isn’t a catastrophe and it can wait until tomorrow.

Have anything to add to the list?

Photos here, here, here, and here

Avatar of Lori Deschene

About Lori Deschene

Tiny Buddha Founder Lori Deschene is the author of the Tiny Wisdom eBook series (which includes one free eBook) & co-founder of Recreate Your Life Story, an eCourse that helps you get unstuck & change your life. She's now seeking stories to include in her next book, 365 Tiny Love Challenges by Tiny Buddha. Click here to share your story! For inspiring posts and wisdom quotes, follow Tiny Buddha on Twitter & Facebook.

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  • http://jakyastikblogs.blogspot.com Jaky Astik

    My perfect break is……………sleepp!

  • http://twitter.com/longzero Long Nguyen

    I love that you started with sleep!

  • Robin Bradford

    Connect with a friend. Drive the “pretty” route to work. Add a colorful card in your workspace (or paint a wall if you can). At work, go outside and take a slow walk around the building grounds. No one will miss you and when you return you’ll have a whole new perspective. Send yourself an upbeat email with a kind subject line. (When I need to email something to myself to my personal email account I’ll add a message: “You rock, baby!” or “Love ya.”) Take a moment to connect with loved ones during the day (be completely present for the check-in phone call or send a “love you” email.)

  • Frit

    What if you cannot sleep??? Dont you just love insomnia!

    Spend some time outside in the sunshine (unless you are from Ireland then there is no sunshine, most of the time)…..the beach is amazing for relaxing between the feeling of sand on your feet, the sound of the water and the fresh air.

  • Chris

    I go to the book store. Something about books and that loyd quite you get at the helps me to unwind.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    I know insomnia well! One thing that has really helped me is minimizing my night time Internet usage. For me, not being able to sleep is about over-thinking, and winding down my brain helps immensely. I’m with you about the beach–there’s nothing I love more than relaxing in the sun (lathered with SPF of course–I’m so light-skinned!)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    I know insomnia well! One thing that has really helped me is minimizing my night time Internet usage. For me, not being able to sleep is about over-thinking, and winding down my brain helps immensely. I’m with you about the beach–there’s nothing I love more than relaxing in the sun (lathered with SPF of course–I’m so light-skinned!)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    It’s one of my favorite activities. =)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    It’s one of my favorite activities. =)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    I love going to book stores! I really like small ones that aren’t part of a bigger chain. There’s something about a unique, funky atmosphere with character that makes me feel really relaxed and at home.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    I love going to book stores! I really like small ones that aren’t part of a bigger chain. There’s something about a unique, funky atmosphere with character that makes me feel really relaxed and at home.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    I love these ideas! Connecting with a friend is such an important one. As someone who works from home, I can attest to the importance of meaningful interaction, particularly during the work day. Your email idea made me laugh out loud–and it’s such a great suggestion. Thanks for commenting. =)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    I love these ideas! Connecting with a friend is such an important one. As someone who works from home, I can attest to the importance of meaningful interaction, particularly during the work day. Your email idea made me laugh out loud–and it’s such a great suggestion. Thanks for commenting. =)

  • Erin Lanahan

    Lori…I seriously needed this, and after I write this, I am putting my computer to bed LOL :-) I soooooo feel you in a BIG way, and these tips are really great and totally applicable. Ahhhhh, I will be referring back to the list for my entire life I’m sure, but at least I’m aware I need to give myself a break sometimes;) I already put in a call to my massage therapist and I’m heading striaght to Whole Foods tomorrow for epsom salts. I already planned to start the detox tomorrow, so check on that one. I hope you are enjoying plenty of those breaks yourself. Lots of love!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    I did the same last night! I often publish Tiny Buddha right before sleep, but I did it early and shut down around 9:00, which was great. Good luck on your detox! I have been thinking of trying the Master Cleanse some time, but it seems a little intense–we shall see! =)

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  • http://big-zen.blogspot.com/ Big Zen

    Packed with wisdom as usual :). I particularly like ‘Replace regrets with dreams’. It’s become fashionable for everyone to say ‘I have no regrets’, I think we’re in denial. Acknowledging regrets and transforming them into dreams is much more powerful in my opinion.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    I actually can’t take full credit for that one. It’s a previous Tiny Buddha quote: “A man is only old when regrets take the place of his dreams.” I love that idea–that so long as we keep looking forward and not backward, it’s never too late for us!

    http://tinybuddha.com/quotes/december-21-2009/

  • Epsilon!

    Really nice, these are things look pretty obvious but still so novel.
    Many thanks.

  • Pingback: How Do I Take A Break With So Much Going On? | Words To Sweat By

  • http://ucffool.myopenid.com/ Mario

    Glad you liked the photo (I’m in the photo and took the photo at the top of the article)!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    I love the photo! Thank you for making it available on Flickr. =)

  • http://shuttleparkcity.com/ Jethro

    Good stuff

  • http://shuttleparkcity.com/ Jethro

    Good stuff

  • epsilon

    exceptional. thanks a ton.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You are most welcome. =)

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1001221028 Andrew Clifforth

    I’ve decided that for the next 2 months (August and September), nothing (at all) is going to be urgent on Wednesdays…for no other reason that a little re-charge midweek will be fan-tastic !!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1001221028 Andrew Clifforth

    I’ve decided that for the next 2 months (August and September), nothing (at all) is going to be urgent on Wednesdays…for no other reason that a little re-charge midweek will be fan-tastic !!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Wow what a great idea! I know Wednesday is a hump day for most people. I actually take Tuesday and Wednesday as my weekend, but I inevitably end up doing some work on those days. I think I will follow suit and decide that even if I work then, nothing is urgent. =)

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  • Gabrielle Furlong

    Hello,

    My name is Gabrielle Furlong and I am currently a Junior at Upper Arlington High School. For my final exam project I have picked a quote from William Power’s book, Hamlet’s Blackberry and used that quote to inspire me to do a research paper/project on a an emotional response to this quote. The quote that I have selected that has inspired me for this final exam project is, “How can you relax and recharge when the whole world is living with you.” Form this quote I have placed it into my current life and thought about how teens these days, specifically my generation, can disconnect themselves from the outside world and apply the concept of “walden zones” talked about in Hamlet’s Blackberry. I have read your article and I was wondering if you could possibly answer a few questions i could possibly use for my exam. Please let me know.

    Thanks,

    Gabrielle Furlong

  • Erica Enriquez

    That top image of the man lying on the rocks by the water – is that Manly Beach in Sydney? Coz that’s where I live and it looks very similar to the walk from Manly Beach to Shelley Beach! :) A very good place to go, if you want to give yourself a break, incidentally :)