Take a break

Ranee Parker blog

In all my effort to convince myself to feel okay, I forgot to take care of myself.

Coming from a corporate background has all kinds of interesting side-effects on my new entrepreneur life. One way I’m seeing this is that I struggle to take time off for fear of being seen as lazy or “not a team player” (even though I’m literally a team of one). My mind fully understands that when I’m feeling overwhelmed, the best way to fix it is to take some time off. Yet, I still worry that will be considered unnecessary. By who? I don’t know.

Since I no longer have to report to another human being about my daily progress or my whereabouts, it seems silly to carry that idea with me. But somehow it nags at me with an unshakable quality. There have been times where I’ve felt the self-employed burn out coming at me full speed and I have strategically held it off by taking some much-needed time off. Even if all I do is take an afternoon to go for a walk, watch a movie, or read a book; anything but allow myself to think about all the things I should be doing. Because I understand that afternoon off can mean the difference between a freak out over everything I need to get done and actually getting shit done. 

But, even knowing that it’s important for me to take breaks in the chaos, I sometimes fail to listen to my own advice.

Last week was a little scary for me. I had surgery on my face to remove an area of skin that morphed into skin cancer. Prior to surgery, I hadn’t thought about it a lot because I kept reminding myself that it’s only skin cancer. Many people have had it so much worse, and this is one of the more beatable forms of the beast, so really I should consider myself lucky. Or at least that’s how I thought I should feel. (But now I’m like, wait, what? I’m supposed to feel lucky because I have cancer? Really?)

Listen, I’m not here to tell you this is the biggest deal in all the deals, but what I realized was that I was so busy trying to be okay with the cancer (because it’s just skin cancer) that I forgot to allow myself to process what was happening. So much so that after surgery I was left struggling to pick up the pieces of my shattered okay-ness.

In fact, I was so unprepared that when the surgery was over and my husband asked if they’d given me a prescription for pain killers my response was, “What for?” Thankfully he put more thought into it than I had and was ready with a bottle of Aleve and enough soup to last me a week, because the skin was removed near my nose and mouth area and even the simple act of chewing proved painful. As the anesthetic wore off and the pain set in, the realization of just how unprepared for post-surgery I was came along with it.

Instead of scheduling time off, I honestly thought I’d be ready to return to work that afternoon (spoiler alert – I was not). Sure, I work from home and maybe I was thinking that meant I could work while my face is healing. But let’s be realistic here, are any of us capable of doing our best work when we are in pain and impatiently waiting for our bodies to recover?

After my annoyance subsided, I started to think about why I hadn’t considered taking time off to rest and recover. Part of it was that I thought I was supposed to be okay and just carry on as if nothing happened. But the problem was that something had happened, and I have the 2-inch scar on my face to prove it. But I think the real reason I didn’t plan any time off was because I was afraid that might mean I wasn’t as okay as I was pretending to be.

Sometimes giving ourselves permission to take time off can make us feel like we’re weak or not handling life well. But in reality taking a bit of time off can have an incredibly positive effect.

Instead of struggling to keep up or fighting our feelings of overwhelm, taking even one day off can help clear the clutter from our brains and get us back to working at full capacity. And we shouldn’t feel like we have to go through something medical to take a break when we need it. Though (note to self) allowing ourselves time to recover from something is very important. We also should avoid getting caught up in how we’re supposed to feel instead of focusing on how we do feel. If I had done that, I wouldn’t have spent the past week worrying about all the shit I wasn’t doing because I hadn’t thought I’d need time to rest after what I like to refer to as facial reduction surgery.

The point is we need to listen to ourselves, and if we feel like we need a break then we should take one. Because, the truth is, when we come back we’re often ready to tackle that to-do list with a new resolve and a clearer mind to figure out how to get it all done without feeling like we have to work all day and night.

Or, as was the case for me this week, we come back with a little less skin and a lot more understanding about the importance of taking care of ourselves. And, really, isn’t our health worth a little time off?