- Naomi Osaka
- Lily Singh
- Ed Sheeran
Well, these aren’t just three names I picked up randomly. Apart from being amazing at their respective professions, what also ties them together is their approach and attitude towards mental health. They all took a break to look after their mental health. Quite recently, it was a contestant from MasterChef Australia, Brent Draper who quit the show to manage his emotional health.
We are all stressed and anxious. Work related stress is at an all-time high, especially, in today’s times where there are blurred boundaries, erratic work timings and demands to be as productive as before. It holds true not just for office-goers, but for housewives and children as well. Often experiencing the tensions for a long time without a break can harm physical, emotional and psychological well-being.
Some common symptoms of long-standing stress may include:
In such a scenario, taking a short break is ideal and fruitful as it offers powerful benefits to a person by helping:
- Re-evaluate the priorities in one’s life
- Restore the depleted physical & mental energies
- Burnout prevention
- Discover new opportunities
- One to keep going
Why is it difficult?
One reason we might feel anxious by the thought of taking a break is the vulnerability that sets in. 25-year-old Aditya shares, “For a lot of us, taking a break sounds scary. There’s this whole buzz around you to hustle: make the most of your prime years, to keep doing things- if it works, it works, if it doesn’t- to just keep moving on. We don’t really process everything that’s happening to us. It’s only after a time, you realise that’s not how you should be operating”.
Another reason why a break sounds strange is because as a society we have always been conditioned to work hard and fulfill our responsibility, sometimes even at the cost of our health because that’s what we have signed up for. As a concept itself, taking a time off to take care of oneself is unheard of. How often do we see this in our own families?
Is it feasible?
We may argue that for celebrities and big personalities it may be easy or with less collateral damage. This may or may not be true – we can’t say with confidence.
For quite a few of us, taking a full-fledged break does sound inconvenient and difficult for many reasons: being sole bread winner, uncertainty about getting another job, stigma around the gap year, losing opportunities etc. It is understandable that in such circumstances, it is difficult to think of taking a break. But what we can do is to take up steps to ensure we manage our physical and mental health- time to time. I interacted with a few people to see how do they go about giving themselves the respite when needed. Here’s what some of them had to say.
- “Every night post dinner, I head out with my wife for a stroll. That’s the treasured hour of my day – to just spend some quiet time with her”.
- “Being a housewife, work never seem to just end and it does get tiring. I just make sure I have my afternoon nap and full 7 hours of sleep. That is what keeps me going”.
- “For me, playing badminton with my friend really helps me to unwind. I make it point to play every day, even if it is for half an hour. Its cathartic to me, especially, on rough days”
- “Since work from home began, I made it a rule to not attend any work emails after 8 pm and calls after 9 pm. This helps me keep that balance between home and job; and give my family some time as well”.
- “Fortunately, my company has a policy that let me take a short break to look after myself. My management was cooperative and understanding of my situation. I’m in a better head space now and my quality of work also gotten better”.
- “We have this beautiful garden with swings in our office. Some evenings I just sit there for a while by myself. In a stressful work environment, that spot became my sacred space: soothing and peaceful to the mind and heart”.
- “We have this mentor-mentee programme, where each of us fresher would be guided by a senior. I think that programme really helped me, not just professionally but personally as well. Their work experience and support guided me and helped me manage the stress and work demands better”.
Will it work?
From my professional and personal experience, I can vouch that a break can do wonders: both physically and mentally. It gives you the time and space to process your thoughts/emotions and give the physical rest that the body needs when it is stressed.
It is both prevention and intervention.
The essence of what taking a break could do to a person is beautifully summarised in what Brent shared in one of the interviews. He stated, “I don’t feel weak or soft for saying I’m not OK and putting my hand up. If anything, I feel stronger. It’s so easy to talk to your mates about the footy score or about work but when it comes to talking about what’s really going on in our heads, it’s so hard. But after asking for help and getting it, it’s really changed my perspective. A mate recently said to me, ‘If you’re not speaking it, you’re storing it, and storing it gets heavy’, and I hope that hits home for all the fellas out there”.
As someone who has experienced mental health issues and taken a break to work on them, I could understand where they are coming from. I just want to thank the celebrities for speaking about mental health concerns on a public platform. More importantly to share that when the going gets tough, it is alright to take a break to work on it.
Here’s to normalizing conversations on mental health!
Priyanka Bantwal (enrichyourmind.in) is a Psychologist and Researcher. She specializes in elderly well-being, perinatal mental health, anxiety, depression, anger and stress management. An avid writer, she has been writing blogs and articles as a medium of generating mental health awareness and psycho-educating people.