In an 'always on' world, our job often intertwines with all other aspects of our lives. When one IMAGE writer took a week off work, she realised the importance of shutting off and separating the two.
I am relatively new to working life.
I still get a buzz from the realization that I work Monday to Friday with weekends off. Payday is a miraculous moment because people are willing to pay me for my words. And the notion of paid holidays, well, that is another thing entirely.
Having slogged through 'silly season' (AKA the summer months in the media world), I was beginning to lag behind. My brain wasn't working at the speed I wanted it to. Sentences were jumbled and ideas were jarring. My personal life and working life were beginning to blur together, and I was finding it difficult to separate the two.
Every day was a struggle. The more work I needed to do, the more I shut down.
Then came the guilt. Because I wasn't working to my full potential, my sense of worth quickly depleted. I even thought of quitting. I thought I wasn't good enough for the job. I felt I wasn't up to speed.
I needed a break
What I didn't realise was that I just needed a break. It was as simple as that. But once your inner voice consumes you, it's very difficult to judge a situation with perspective.
Last year, I had taken one full week off in total. This was to write a thesis, so the only shut-off point was while I slept. Outside of this, I took days here and there but I never knew the refreshing and sensational feeling that is having a full week off work.
Until last week.
I did nothing. I went nowhere. It was all I wanted and more.
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I drank some wine each night. I went to the gym (to cancel out the wine). I read and I slept. I went out with friends and I mingled with lovely strangers. I shut the working world out.
And it was incredible.
Though I have some end-of-my-break blues, I have bounced back with a new sense of purpose.
It's very easy to fall into the trap of 'all work and no play'. A friend of mine has just moved to Australia and she has praised the life Australians lead. She said they don't believe work is everything. They understand the power of signing off and doing things that fill your soul – and not your wallet.
Work, work and more work
We are westernised in the sense that all we think about is work, work and more work.
We only break away when either our mental or physical health begins to suffer. I knew mine was on the verge when my sentences started to make no sense. And when I shouted "NEVER FORGET" at a colleague who was innocently telling us about her marathon training.
Fast-forward seven days – my sentences are flowing and I have refrained from shouting random phrases at passers-by.
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Self-care is a term you either love or hate, but it is a ritual needed for general wellbeing. No car can travel from Kerry to Dublin on half a tank of diesel, and the same goes for us. Outside of the career highs and wonderful moments work can bring, it can also harbour great pressure and stress.
When people say 'never take work home with you', it's much easier said than done. In an 'always on' world, we are exactly that; always on. It doesn't stop. Our phones are connected to our emails, which are connected to our laptops, which are probably connected to our televisions, and so on.
Take that break
We rarely truly take time out away from work, but a break is always welcome.
I muted the emails and made good use of the out-of-office facility. I didn't partake in anything that was related to my work and I've since returned rejuvenated and motivated.
Taking a break might send some people into a blind panic, especially if you are a workaholic. But make use of those paid holidays and weekends. They are there for a reason. So, when you can, take a break and turn it all off.
Because when you do, you realise the working life ain't all that bad.
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