I’m just taking a break!

Sounds pretty counterintuitive doesn’t it? After all, taking a break is supposed to be a good healthy idea- Right? We work hard, and rest and relaxation are an important necessity to recharge our battery. In posture ergonomics, I routinely recommend that office workers take breaks from their computer screens every 2 hours to avoid the gravitational strain on the neck and upper back muscles that lead to bad, forward head posture. Its a good practice to take periodic breaks from social media in order to stay focused on tasks and not get into conflicting habits of distraction.

So how can wanting to take a break be dangerous?

Because it is the first step in derailing our progress that ultimately keeps you off your path to your long term goal. It is a seemingly innocent remark that carries a positive message when in fact it is a veiled excuse to quit. And the most dangerous part is that we don’t see this at the time. A person commits to a fitness program and builds a productive habit of routinely going to the gym 3x per week. Positive health benefits are attained and there is noted reinforcement to continue week after week. Suddenly there is a family crisis and the persons time is compromised and priorities dictate that working out needs to stop immediately. After a couple of weeks the crisis has passed. There now becomes a critical moment when the person needs to decide to resume the original exercise routine. But look what happens. The rhythm that took so long to establish has been disrupted. The patterned behavior has changed. The automatic structure of setting time aside, driving to the gym and actively exercising has stopped. The momentum is lost and suddenly it doesn’t feel easy or right anymore. New inertia has set in. Willpower is drained. Rather than recognize and accept this initial discomfort, the person decides that based on having just endured recent emotional struggles, they need to take a break. Seems reasonable to them in the moment. After all , they honestly and truly believe that it will only be temporary. And yet before you know it, 6 months has passed and they still haven’t gone back. Sound familiar?

Ive seen this countless times in practice over the years. People are always well intentioned when they take breaks, only to find that they invariably either quit or move on to something else and have to start over. We see it every day in advertisements. There is always the next new health toy or gadget that will solve our problems in 30 days with a full money back guarantee. People get excited with the prospect of a novel quick fix. They buy on emotion and try out the item enthusiastically for the first 3 or 4 times. Most of the time , the product is sound enough to do what it claims if used regularly and consistently. Once the novelty and excitement wear off and distractions disrupt the consistent use, the consumer takes a break. Next thing you know, its either under the bed with the 10 other previous purchases made or gathering dust in the garage. A few months later , we move on to the next novelty, new solution that catches are attention. Why does this keep happening?

The same reason we stop doing anything that is good for us. Because a new reinforced habit develops. Only this one is not a productive one. Its an easier path of least resistance that leads to neglect. The fist step in this downward cycle is complacency. There are no initial consequences when you disrupt your healthy behavioral pattern. No slap on the wrist when you take your break. In fact , there may even be a little positive reinfocement of lowered stress by not having to deal with the struggle or the discomfort. But this temporary relief ultimately gives ways to feelings of guilt and inadequacy. Complacency gives us the false security of telling ourselves that nothing bad is happening even though we stopped our routine. I have explored ways to understand this phenomena and how to get out of it in the last months blog. You can check it out here . Stay tuned for next weeks blog when examine another disruptive pattern in mindset thinking- scarcity

Until then,keep those breaks short and sweet! Please share