shutterstock_92696332I haven’t been here for a while. At first, I felt bad about it. But then, I realized that sometimes it’s good to take a break from things. I’ve been blogging fairly regularly here since 2006. 8 years of putting out content, playing in my sandbox, and sharing snippets of my brain with you.

This past year, I’ve been working on a lot of things personally. In the Fall I went through a bad bout of depression and anxiety, and it forced me to take a step back from everything for a while, even work. I have been rebuilding since, and learning a lot about setting limits and living more skillfully and mindfully. It’s been a great journey, and my recovery has taught me a lot about how to better cope with the stresses of life.

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned through this is that it’s okay to take breaks from things. I took a break from filling my calendar with event after event. And I took a break from writing here. Partly this was because at a certain point, I could only handle so much. And partly it was because I really wanted to focus on finishing my book, which comes out this summer.

So how does one go about stepping back, when the demands of life are many and persistent? Here’s what I have learned:

Just say no. “No” is the most important word I’ve learned in the past 8 months. Before I got sick, I was into everything. No matter what came along I would jump at it, and before I knew it, I was stretched WAY too thin. Suddenly, I was cancelling all sorts of commitments at the last minute, and letting people down. It wasn’t healthy for me or for my relationships. Then, I realized that I have the ultimate control over what I choose to do or not do. So I started using the word “no” more often, and a funny thing happened. The world did not end. People did not get mad at me. And suddenly I had more time to focus on the things that I COULD do, as opposed to the things I felt I SHOULD do. It was an amazing revelation.

Stop when you need to. My illness caused me to have to drop everything and rest as much as possible. It was really hard for me at first, because I am not used to being a lump on the sofa, taking naps all afternoon and sleeping 10 hours a night. But that’s what my body and mind needed at that time. Thankfully, I have a very supportive business partner and a wonderful husband and family who allowed me to take the time I needed to properly recover. What I’ve learned is that I need to not ignore the signals, and stop when my body and mind tell me to.

Meditate. This has been the most challenging for me. To stop and listen to my mind, focus on my breathing for a period of time is not something I’m naturally inclined to do. But I’ve been learning that meditation can take on many forms. It can be just taking a minute to take a breath during a stressful moment, or it can be walking to the store. It can be a focused half hour of silence. It doesn’t require anything but to just take a moment and breathe and be mindful and present. And it’s been the thing that I find has helped me the most.

We cannot function well if we are continuously running at 100 mph in 1000 different directions. Taking a break, slowing down, saying no, and focusing on the present are all vital to living a healthy life.

How do you take breaks?