When Is It Time to Take a Breather?

You’ve worked for weeks to meet a deadline. Day in and day out, almost 24/7 at the computer. Your agent is pushing, and so is the publisher. And your editor is dragging with the last revisions.
Not to mention your blog schedule is scantily filled, and your writing isn’t at the top of your game. Then there are the stresses of home, finances, kids and well, just life in general.

By Korall (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons
By Korall (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons

You feel like burying your head in the sand and not coming up.

So, take a breather! Give yourself a break!

Did I hear you say, “I can’t?”

Oh, yes, you can, and you should.

It is at this point you should take a breather. Step away from the computer, the desk, the stress and strain. Treat yourself to one or more of the following:

  • Take a short walk, maybe just a couple of blocks, breathing deeply as you go.
  • Make yourself a cup of tea or pour a cup of coffee and go sit under your favorite tree and savor the joy of the moment
  • Clear your mind of all that calls your name and close your eyes for 10 minutes or so while doing some deep breathing exercises.
  • Stand up where you are and do some stretching — neck, shoulders, arms, fingers and back. Remember never to sit for long periods of time no matter the deadlines.
  • Do something else you love to do for a while — gardening, painting, needlework, reading, listening to music.
  • Call a friend and make a date for lunch, something to get you out.
  • Better yet, as soon as those deadlines are met, take a weekend or a week, and step away for a little longer.

And the list could go on but I think you get the idea here. Nothing is as unhealthy as pushing yourself beyond your own mental and physical limits. Only you know what they are, but train yourself to recognize the right time for a breather. Usually it’s when . . .

  • You lose focus on what you’re writing. The constant and intense attention given to your writing will tire you much more quickly than you can imagine. Usually, your writing slows down and/or it seems your eyes can’t grasp what you’re looking at on the screen or on paper. Take time to close your eyes and breathe deeply.
  • You feel your hands or fingers cramping from long hours of typing. Or maybe it’s a stiffness in the neck and shoulders. For me, it’s usually the lower back that gets tired. Time for stretching exercises!
  • You realize you haven’t spent much time with family, children or friends. This is a part of who we are, and without time with the ones we love we soon become less of who we are and want to be. Make time for an afternoon strolling with your best friend, husband, wife or kids through a park.
  • You feel like the world is on your shoulders. Well, it may seem that way, but really it’s not the world — it’s your world. Time to look at how the household chores are shared and who can do some of the things you usually do, especially if there are responsible children or teens in the home. Give yourself a little less responsibility for things others can do.

Please note that I’m not any better at taking care of myself. I’ll sit for hours at the computer writing, and then wonder why everything feels so stiff. I am not a trained expert on this topic, but learned some of what I’ve shared when I underwent two spinal fusions, and still I don’t pay much attention to what I learned.

My goal is to take better care me of me so that I can finish my book, support my blogs, communicate with online friends, and spend time loving my family and friends.

I truly hope you do the same. All you have to remember is when to take a breather!

32 thoughts on “When Is It Time to Take a Breather?

  1. I’m in this spot right now. Thank you for listing small, reasonable things that can be done to give writers a break, since it usually isn’t feasible to just take off and do whatever. Even if the writing can wait, the household chores tend to fill in that space. Nature abhorring a vacuum and all that…

    1. Kat, thanks for stopping by and taking time to read this post. Household chores? Mine seem to multiply while I’m writing. Can relate to your comment about the small things we can do to get a break. Love the words “Nature abhorring a vacuum and all that . . .”

      1. You are welcome! Yes, they do multiply, and as soon as I get on a deadline, that’s when everything seems to break/have to be done ASAP. Good luck in your own writing endeavors!

  2. Love these reminders. It’s so much easier to take a break than to push and end up with a pinched nerve. I’ve been taking a forced break to get over it.

  3. Sherrey, I never tire of this reminder and this one is beautiful. I may have to copy this and hang it in my office to keep reinforcing the importance of taking a break!It’s all so logical and simple but I apparently need to be reminded–often –thank you:-)

    1. Kathy, not a one of us ever remembers we need to do this! We all need reminders. I like the idea of printing it out and hanging in office. I may have to do the same. 🙂

  4. It’s great to hear of others needing to tear themselves away from writing. I keep telling myself, “one more section,” or “just five minutes more,” and before I know it it’s bedtime or the weekend is over. If it wasn’t for my dog, who rests at my feet as I write, plopping her squeaky toy in my lap every so often, I’d never stop.

    1. It is so easy to commit to just one more paragraph or five minutes more and, as you said, soon it’s bedtime or the weekend has flown by. My cat, Maggie, is my reminder that I’ve been here too long by walking across my computer in front of the screen. 🙂

  5. I may not be a writer, but I know all bout what you are referring to. Thanks for the tips and yes, we all need to take a breather once in a while.

  6. I’ve learned to listen to my body when I’m in the midst of writing marathon. Sometimes my brain tries to override everything, but it is so important to rest!

  7. Good Advice Sherrey – a friend of mine with a full time job, family considerations and attempting to get out several new books is now suffering medical issues.

  8. I think you must be a mind reader, Sherrey. The two books I’m readying now, Chaim Potok’s The Chosen and Fil Anderson’s Running on Empty both recommend learning the lessons of silence. Today I need to step away from the computer’s call and take a walk on the beach just 12 miles east. Ocean waves are another form of silence, I think.

    1. Oh, Marian, the ocean is a beautiful form of silence. In a few weeks, well just over two actually, Bob and I are taking three days and driving to the coast. My favorite pastime when I get there is reading to the sounds of the ocean and sometimes just sitting with its silence in the background. You’ve just added two more books to my list!!

  9. Good advice, Sherrey. As someone who took nearly three months away from writing, I can say that taking a break rejuvenates, refreshes, and restores. We all need rest.

    1. Joan, I am so glad you found rejuvenation, refreshment and restoration these past months. I know how good it feels, and I’m so pleased you’re wise enough to realize when it’s time. BUT, we’ll be glad to have you back among us!

    1. Gabriela, your words pose a begging question. Why do we have to be reminded? What makes us feel guilty in our self-care? Guess you could say there are a couple of good blog posts here. Thanks for stopping by! Hoping your writing is going well.

      1. I think for me – having grown up with such high expectations from all my teachers and parents – I have standards that aren’t my own, and so I get into a pattern of pushing myself and not being myself. The reminder is I suppose what jolts me out of this and says: be yourself! Eventually, I won’t need reminding. At least, that’s what I hope 😉

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