Take a break…If you won’t take it your mind will force you to take one.
Our global culture is moved to a mind-set were productivity is the epitome of virtue. You’re respected and worthwhile only if you are productive or atleast seem so. This has led to a lot of people trying hard to keep themselves busy, which might or might not be in a productive direction. This has also led to “Lazy shaming”, what I mean by this is that it’s just not acceptable anymore to be lying still without having earned that lying around time. This is not to say that its desirable to be lazy, but to consider it a matter of shame and ridicule doesn’t alleviate it, rather might discourage people from resorting to it even when they thoroughly need it. Or on the other extreme, demotivate the person to sink deeper into laziness.
“Time is money”, “the wastage of time is the ultimate loss” are some of the quotes that are bombarded to us on a regular basis. I do not disagree with these statements, but I do disagree with taking time off to be considered a wastage of time.
To give oneself the permission to take a break, to just sit aimlessly, things which were very much a part of life just a few decades ago, are not reaching a taboo point. In my practice I often meet parents who are absolutely aghast by such behaviour in their teenage children. As a result we have raised a generation of workforce that cannot pick up the cues from their mind and body when they are overworked until they reach an absolute breaking point of burnout. This is the point when they either develop a mental or a physical illness. Or one fine day they wake up and realize that they just cannot pull themselves out of bed to go to work or college or school. Then what follows is what leads to a long period of “unproductive” time, or irreversible damage, or a lot of emotional pain. I have had students who were my clients who reached that point of burnout, post which they could never revert back to their education. And these were those kids who used to ace in their class. It is because of this reason that I insist that top performers need as much counseling and guidance as underperformers.
I have heard parents mention with pride “our child studies for 8 hours straight, without taking a break, doesn’t engage in unnecessary things like friendships and outings”. Our Indian parents in their well-meaning efforts for their child’s “bright” future, do more harm than good.
They forget that success doesn’t only mean the pay scale. And they forget what the ultimate point of that pay scale is, to have a good life. And it’s not a good life if you’re earning very well but spending half of your salary on medication, and being unhappy at the end of it anyway. The quick retort that comes to such reasoning is it’s better to cry in a car than an auto-rickshaw. So what this statement implies is that we have accepted by default that life is going to be a misery and all we have control over is exactly in what circumstances this misery is going to play out. I refuse to accept this scenario.
Coming back to ‘laziness’. This article doesn’t attempt to condone laziness, it merely suggests that it’s a necessity for everyone every once in a while, similar to sleep. Just like our biology has set aside a certain portion of the day for non-productive rest, in the same way, our mind requires a phase of lazy resignation, infrequent intervals. There is an ample amount of research that shows a positive correlation between lunch/ short breaks and employee productivity, creativity, engagement and mental health. Similar results have been found regarding vacations.
How frequent these intervals have to be is a very subjective matter, and varies largely from individual to individual. For some a mere lazy weekend is sufficient for others they need a month of vacation once every year. The point of this article is to remove the shame and/or guilty of being purposeless and non-useful for some period of time. I hope after reading this, you’ll feel much less guilty just lying on your couch (…for some period of time).