Today, I want to talk about something that I often struggle with: taking a break.
Well, I am by nature a bit lazy. But when it comes to academia and research, I am probably not because I like it a lot. Because I like it a lot, I tend to overwork (just like most other people in the field). I am here today to talk about one major consequence that results from this overworking habit: inability to relax and the sense of guilt.
You all probably know and experienced that when something becomes a habit, your body and mind start craving for it at the intervals in which you repeat that habitual behavior. Let’s say, if you have been exercising three times a week for a while, your body will want it at those intervals. Your muscles will get tense, you will get uneasy etc. Just like that, when work becomes a habit, your body and mind wants it. They start showing strange behaviors.
With that background, now imagine working every day, which means that work becomes a habit repeated every day. The result is that the mind starts craving it every day.
So, now with that background, imagine not working for several weeks, which means that you ignore that craving for an extended period of time (extended based on the frequency of the habit).
This is hard. That is why I tend to get back to work earlier than I plan all the time. That is also why I feel guilty when I don’t work for a while (as if I am not giving the food my mind desires).
For example, a common (sad) joke about summer breaks within the academic community goes like the following: Summers are guilt times for academics. We feel guilty if we spend time with family and friends and don’t work and because we always have things to do research-wise (In fact, we are always told to ‘make the most of the summer’, which means we should study and get things done because during school years we have classes and stuff). If we decide to work rather than spending time with family and friends, then we feel guilty just because of that decision. So, no matter what we choose, we are bound to feel guilty in summers.
Summer schools of academic fields also reflect this: they are a way of taking a break but also still do work.
I definitely do like working, which is why I am still in academia. No complaints about that. But I also don’t want to feel guilty when I take a break because that is very much not in line with human nature. So, here is my question for you:
I talked about the case in academia because that is what I know best. However, I also know that this is probably a generalized state in many jobs in our age. Do you experience guilt as such in your job as well? If not, how do you manage to resist the pressure and don’t feel guilty? Any tips? Is there a way to get around this requirement in modern life?