On Taking Breaks / by Anjal Chande


I’m back!

It’s understandable if you never noticed I was gone or never realized I was here before. But let me tell you, I am back!

Back from what? I’m back from a break.

I took a few-months-long break to enjoy my husband’s homemade chai, to seek a change of scenery, and to get grounded again. I needed to clear my mind, refill the well, and rediscover myself. I carved out time to prioritize all of this. Most importantly, I learned how to take a break, and that lesson was the most worthwhile outcome of all.

Breaks are hard to do. I was a high intensity artist-entrepreneur, a 24/7 workaholic, chronically ambitious, and foolish to believe in my own indomitability. Breaks weren’t in my vocabulary. By the time I started to understand the importance of days off or vacations, I had a hard time implementing them successfully. I thought I was the state of California with a water table that could never go dry, and I lived like that for eight years until I could no longer deny that I had become parched.

When I finally came to a halt, I realized very quickly that I didn’t actually understand what a break was. Taking a break was a trial and error process. It required so much self-control, as if I had to handcuff myself to a chair in order to resist the urge to set new goals and restlessly pursue them. After a day or two of rest, I wanted to believe it was enough, but I didn’t feel different. No sense of revitalization had come over me. So I stayed in taking-a-break mode until I could unlock the transformative experience I was seeking.

Here are some things I discovered, applicable to breaks of all shapes and sizes:

Breaks are NOT:

  • Merely going through the physical motions of break-taking
  • Thinking about work even while you appear to not be working
  • Clenching, clinging, gripping, holding onto an obsessively goal-oriented mindset
  • Distracting oneself to avoid facing the agony of not being “productive”
  • Leaking battery power to applications left running in the back of your mind

Breaks ARE:

  • Breaking habitual patterns of perspective
  • Expanding beyond a myopic worldview, beyond a tunnel-vision work mode
  • Detaching from anything that is not the present moment
  • Interrupting momentum, when momentum isn’t good
  • Feeling content with who you are and where you are
  • Turning off, shutting down
  • Doing nothing

People say life is what happens when you’re busy making plans, and perhaps the same can be said for when we’re busy not taking breaks. For me, the most lovely break, such as a walk around the neighborhood, is one that feels aimless, just for fun, and truly relaxing. It seems to be the only way to recharge my being and clarify my purpose, and this kind of break is also profound. It puts life in perspective because it IS life. A break contains the breadth and depth of life itself! We are so much bigger than any simple work or grand ambition we may pursue, and right there in those restful moments, we have an undistracted opportunity to behold that truth.

When I look back on how I used to live, it sounds so crazy. But it also sounds normal, because a lot of us live in a similar mad-dashing frenzy. Like maniacs, we may commonly sacrifice life, in all its fullness and glory, at the altar of a race to the bottom of our never-ending to-do lists. Yet, what my recent soul-satisfying hiatus has taught me is to never, ever go without taking a break.

I share all this because breaks are this newfound, crucial, and cherished part of my process now. Of work, creativity, and life. I feel a very assuring sense of renewal and readiness to be where I’m at, and it will allow me to be mindful of whatever I do moving forward.  I always want to be grounded as I reach out into the world to work. I always want to be centered as I give of myself to create. I always want to take breaks, intentionally and with care.

In a world where there are many advocates for sharpening one’s work ethic, working hard, working selflessly, being productive, and hustling to achieve one’s dreams, I want to be an advocate for breaks, pauses, rest stops, rejuvenation, the value of just being. Not simply because it helps you go back and work better. But because it helps you stay connected to who you really are and what life really is about – something more beautiful and more fulfilling than any fleeting worldly pursuit.

I am your break-taking cheerleader.  Take a break.