For most of January, I was home from university for winter break. It was a relaxing period. I got to spend time with friends and family, while pushing school and other responsibilities to the back of my head temporarily.

Now that I’m back at school, it’s come to my attention just how much people take breaks for granted, especially when it comes to mental health. It feels like every year, society starts to move faster and faster, and people are constantly moving to try and keep up. Whether it’s taking on additional work to keep up with the job market, or bingeing the newest season of a big show to keep up with friends, everyone’s always trying to keep up with something.

While it is good to stay up to date on some things, trying to be on top of everything all the time is a sure way to burn out. People often try to push themselves far beyond healthy limits for the sake of productivity, despite the fact that taking a break often helps productivity.

Multiple studies have shown that taking a short break while working can result in stronger motivation, greater creativity, and better mental health. Yet the “work ‘till you drop” culture in many countries, including the U.S., causes many people to detest the idea of stepping away from a task before it’s done. Because of this, I believe it’s both very valuable—even admirable—for someone to admit, “I need a break.”

In November 2018, a popular YouTuber, Lily Singh (a.k.a. IISuperwomanII), posted a video to her YouTube channel announcing that she would be taking a professional break. While this might not seem like a big deal, YouTube is an extremely fast-paced platform. If creators aren’t consistently producing content, YouTube will often stop promoting them. For YouTube sensations such as Singh—since 2010, her videos have received more than 2 billion hits and her channel has over 14 million subscribers—this is a particularly serious risk.

“The thing about YouTube,” says Singh, “is that in all of its glory, it kind of is a machine and it makes creators believe that we have to pump out content consistently, even at the cost of our life and our mental health and our happiness.” For this reason, I commend Singh for having the courage to take a break for the sake of her mental health and happiness. Although her break was relatively short, I’m glad she was able to take time away from work to take better care of herself.

It’s important for people to take more breaks—for their productivity and, more importantly, for their health. Whether you have a project that you need to finish this weekend, or a blog post you need to finish tomorrow night, don’t be afraid to set aside some time for yourself along the way. Take a nap, listen to some lofi hip-hop, or look at some cute cat pictures—whatever relaxes and rejuvenates you. When you do get back to work, you’ll be happier, healthier, and work better.

 ~ Salman

©2020 Do No Harm Foundation

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