Giving ourselves permission for a break: time away as self-care and strategic productivity

“What day is it?” asked Winnie the Pooh. “It’s today,” squeaked Piglet. “My favorite day,” said Pooh” ~ A.A. Milne

Villa Artis, Bali by @debsnet

Early tomorrow morning I will be on a plane to an island destination for a holiday with family and friends. I should be dreaming of silky cool pool water, fire-coloured sunsets over the ocean, meandering rice paddies reflecting blue skies, the sizzle of seafood on the beach and the clink of ice blocks in cocktail glasses.

Canggu beach, by @debsnet

And yet I have been thrashing around trying to decide whether or not to work or study or blog while I am away. Or whether I can leave it all behind and take a real break, despite ceaseless deadlines. I wonder if this is a common phenomenon in a world in which we are constantly connected to each other, constantly available to our workplaces and constantly curating, creating and sharing vignetted content of our lives and work. While flexible working hours can allow us to make adaptable life choices and social media can allow us to connect with others, do they also contribute to a cycle of relentlessness which we find difficult to break away from?

rice paddies, Umalas, by @debsnet

I have decided that I need to take a full thinking, writing, marking, everything break from my worlds of work, research and writing. One of my three words of 2015 is ‘presence’, so partly this break is about a commitment to being present with my children, husband and friends during our trip. But it is also about being ok with taking an actual break and with a commitment to self-care. I am someone who sees blogging as a break from PhD writing. Or PhD writing as a break from marking. So the idea of a break from all-of-the-things is foreign and has taken some self-convincing.

offerings, Bali, by @debsnet

There are others who have reflected on the importance of self-care, even as we catapult ourselves towards our goals. Raul Pacheco-Vega wrote on self-care in academia and the importance of privileging your own health and wellbeing. New Zealand author Celia Lashlie, who I’ve had the pleasure of hearing speak about her work, died in February after releasing a statement which read, “My wish is that others will learn to stop before I did, to take into account the limitations of their physical bodies and to take the time to listen to the yearnings of their soul. It is in the taking care of ourselves we learn the ability to take care of others.”

Seminyak sunset, by @debsnet

I love my work and my research, and most of the time I find a tenuous work-family balance. I wrote on the PhD Talk blog about the way that normally it works for me to have many things on the go, as doing any one of them feels like a holiday from the others. I also spoke there about the importance of quiet in-between times. That is, often I make the most cognitive or creative progress, on my PhD thesis or a strategic work problem, when I am walking, or driving, or taking time to be quiet and still. So luxuriating in a full, unadulterated, brazen break is also a strategy to vacation, to vacate the demands of everyday life, in order that I might return with some mental clarity and physical energy to tackle the rest of this year, which includes for me, finishing my PhD thesis and successfully implementing the professional learning and growth model at my school.

So give yourself permission for a break, small or large. To unplug from emails, tweeting, writing or planning. To take care of yourself, curl your toes in the earth and immerse yourself in somewhere, somehow or someone that gives you joy.

(Photos in this post are from a previous trip.)

(How did it go? The post-script to this post can be found here.)

Sea Circus, Bali, by @debsnet


17 thoughts on “Giving ourselves permission for a break: time away as self-care and strategic productivity

  1. I’d take the break and enjoy it. Work will be there when you get home! As a fellow teacher, researcher, postgrad student and blogger who gave up the Easter holidays to work for a newspaper and radio station I understand the dilemma.
    They say that rest stimulates creativity and probably preserves sanity. That surely must be good.
    It sounds so persuasive I might take my own advice!


  2. Thank God for the fabric into which we are woven, for it bestows upon us both the imperative to be strong and the bounty to relax.
    For as a single thread I seem wrapped tightly in my responsibility to be ever taught, to take up the tension of my time and place, to resist the pull of all the others toward despair, disintegration and destruction.
    But as a part of the greater cloth, I am relieved and entertained by my integration in the fabric. I glory in the richness and diversity of color and texture about me, able to see my part, yet flex, absorb and enjoy the wonderful tapestry of my life.


  3. I hope you didn’t take any work with you Deb. You deserve a break, as I think we all do. BTW I hadn’t heard that Celia Lashlie had passed away. I loved hearing her speak and her “He’ll be Ok” book I read and read over and over, made all my friends read it and then every mum in my family and friendship groups who has a son had to read it and pass sit to her partner. Let’s take heed of her words and “learn to stop”. So Deb take a break and don’t feel guilty. Enjoy the time away.


    • Jo I took the break (even from the eduTwitterverse) and it was wonderful! I agree that Celia Lashlie was an inspirational mind, especially in terms of looking after our boys. Now I have returned both wanting to do it all again, and full of ideas and a renewed energy for teaching and research. Hoorah!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I love this post and as one who is aiming to “enjoy and savour the moment” more in 2015 I find these words motivating . They are ones I will take with me when we go on holiday in June. I hope you are enjoying your well deserved break and may piglets quote be a good reminder to nowtalways dwell on the past or plan for the future but to simply savour on the moment you are in.


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