I haven’t written any posts for quite some time now. Things have been hectic recently, both at work and in private life. I do very much enjoy blogging, but I need the time and peace to write.

I love learning and used to really enjoy taking on new projects. Some years ago I really hit the wall – it was just too much and I was forced to slow down. My body and mind said no. The most important lesson I learned from this, was to prioritise and ask myself why I really do certain things. It made me calm down and not force myself to do what everyone else seemingly does, at the cost of my own health. 

Aircraft workers on lunch break 1942

Photo source: Franklin D. Roosevelt Library & Museum

Of course I don’t mean stop doing everything. Believe me, I’m in safe distance from turning into a couch potato. I don’t think that anyone takes harm from forcing themselves out of bed and off to work some occasional Friday mornings when you feel extra tired. As lovely as a few more hours of sleep and a long weekend might sound. What worries me, is when you are in an environment where you feel like you constantly have to achieve. For many this is at work, but it could be a social setting – think of the housewife with her perfect household, the cool and urban single clique where you need to have just the right vintage furniture and impeccable music taste. It can be about keeping up the “perfect” facade, or being at your best at all times when you are surrounded by (what seems to be) brilliant co-workers.

My guess is that they probably feel as exhausted as you. Slowing down and not caring will take some guts, because it naturally means taking a different path than the others. But what if you need to do what is just right for you? Are you making the choices that really brings value to your life, to your health and wellbeing? I think this is vital to do in everyday life.

I will mention two incidents from work, which were meant at great advice (and could also be inspirational and valuable to many), but still provoked me. The first is when a very respected and talented co-worker left his job. He sent around a honest and nice farewell e-mail, where he also encouraged everyone to not waste another lunch again – but spend this time to get to know new people, learn a new language or similar. Lovely idea and great advice, most people thought.

The other was a new initiative from the HR department. Learning at lunch – bring food with you and attend a course during lunch. Also great! Multi-tasking at it’s best – who doesn’t enjoy food and an inspirational lecture? They also created a language tandem overview (I work in an office with 25+ nationalities represented), to make it easy for people to arrange bi-lingual lunches together.

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think there is anything wrong with these ideas per se. Such initiatives are not a given at every work place. The problem is when it’s expected of everyone. The fact that it’s communicated through official channels creates that extra pressure. They are basically signalising that “That’s how we do it here: Always learn, always achieve. Never slow down.”.

I mean, don’t “waste” another lunch? On what? Calming down, getting some fresh air and recharging to be able to perform your job the rest of your day? I really don’t mind doing such things once in a while. What I do mind is when my lunch hour is turned into a chore of learning. I spend at least nine hours at work every day. There are plenty of studies done on contentration and the importance of breaks during work. And even without the studies, I’m sure you can very well imagine a day from your own life.

So I slow down. After work as well – when I feel like I have too much to do, I don’t go that extra mile to finish my blog posts. I’m attending a language course after work, but I don’t push myself to go every time. The same with the gym. Yet I enjoy it every time I go, because I have the energy and feel motivated. If it’s something that is not crucial to my happiness, I chose not to feel stressed about it. I take care of myself, and I care little of what other people think in those matters. It’s about allowing yourself to do these things, to be aware of why we make the choices we do. Perhaps you should do so as well. Ask yourself what is important to you and your loved ones, and should you constantly achieve just to compromise on your health?

My lunch breaks are holy. I never waste any of them.