I’m not ashamed of taking a break, and you shouldn’t be ashamed of it either!

Today, I did absolutely nothing. No work whatsoever! I kinda spent the entire day on the sofa photosynthesising in front of my TV.

I don’t normally do this. But I felt today is one of those rare days where I needed it the most. The past few days have been extremely hectic. I just finished one project amidst several others, and I really needed a break before starting on the next. I was operating on very little sleep yesterday. I don’t think I’ll be able to survive the next few days if I hadn’t taken a break.

And I’m proud and glad that I did it!

I think we have a very toxic culture – a culture that scorns those who rest. No matter how important rest may be, we somehow don’t look favourably on those around us who are taking some time out either to do nothing or to engage in a recreational hobby. Maybe it’s envy that others can rest while we’re stuck with work. Maybe we have a prejudice against those who rest, thinking that all these people are slackers. Maybe it’s both. But whatever it is, if we’re doing it, we really should stop because we’re discouraging people from taking a much-needed rest.

Somehow, if you take a break, you’re perceived as a slacker, someone who isn’t serious about his/her work, or somebody who just has too much free time on their hands (is that really a bad thing?). It’s because of this toxic culture that people feel so guilty when they take a much needed break. I’ve come across people who feel so guilty to take an hour or two off just to take a walk or to watch a movie (these are people who work from morning till late at night!). People somehow feel obligated to be busy all the time, and even to work longer hours just to avoid this kind of societal disapproval.

I’ve encountered this many times – either as the one receiving disapproving remarks for taking a break, or seeing others receiving such scorn from others. Sure, if a person is indeed a slacker, then yes, disapprove of his/her actions all you want. But why do we extend such condemnation on friends who we know are not slackers?

We don’t think so much about the criticisms we give, but simple remarks such as, “Why are you so free?” or “Don’t you have anything better to do?”, are the very words that make people feel ashamed of taking a well-deserved rest from work. It doesn’t matter even if we mean it in jest – those words evoke a false sense of guilt and shame in them, and over time, it just discourages them from resting, especially on occasions where they need it the most. One of the worst remarks I’ve heard is, “Didn’t you say you were busy? Why are you doing this?”

Seriously, is it a crime to take a break from the intensity of work? I think there’s something wrong with us if we’re regularly voicing disapproval at those who take a rest either by doing nothing or by engaging in a hobby.

Perhaps the ones who receive the most scorn are those who engage in a recreational hobby. It’s odd, but for some strange reason, it’s more acceptable to photosynthesize in front of your TV or computer. But if you are involved in art, dance, or something else, you will receive a lot more critical remarks (and/or scorn) than those who do nothing. The assumption is that if you have the time to do hobby X, that time could have been better used for work/study. Somehow, we equate more time spent on “practical” work as something far more worthwhile and productive than time spent on recreational hobbies.

But hobbies are important! They are an important way to rest the mind by allowing it to wander creatively in other areas, so that when we return to our work, our minds return to it refreshed! It varies from person to person, but generally, hobbies help the mind to rest more effectively than simply doing nothing. This is something our overly-pragmatic culture doesn’t seem to teach us these days. I’d say, hobbies help to improve productivity!

I think, we shouldn’t be ashamed or guilty when we are terribly exhausted. Rest is important, and we should never allow the toxic culture and ignorant people around us to make us feel ashamed of taking a break! We should be happy and proud that we’re able to do so. For it means a well-rested mind and body that will better prepare us for the work to come, and we’ll be refreshed to handle it efficiently. Now, that’s what I call being productive!