Tuesday, February 2, 2010

When Life Doesn't Work: Stop and Play

I know this may sound like I've gone out of my mind. But honestly, it does work. Amazingly well, in fact. If you do it, really do it, you can tap into a whole new energy level. You can find a place where the creativity flows from you in a steady stream and you can find your way through almost any difficulty and restore your soul in the midst of it.

Consider this: the power of joy.

Studies have shown that joyful experiences greatly increase creativity and productivity. I tested it myself and found that it's true. Getting away from the work for a bit and being refreshed and playing at something releases my brain to explore new solutions. I find new energy. I find answers. I return to my work with a better and wiser perspective.

But there's a catch. Actually three.

First, I have to really let go of everything -- lose myself in a a playful, genuinely refreshing way that recharges my soul. Beauty does this. Hearing and reading the stories of other people restore my perspective. Exercise helps. Often, getting away to a completely new setting and forgetting entirely about whatever it was that upset me so much is the most effective thing I can do. This only works if I allow myself to become completely immersed and savor it without any guilt and without thinking, for once, about what everyone else would like. This is about recharging my batteries, not theirs.

Second, I must have the discipline to return to my work. It defeats the purpose if I leave the problems and play and never come back to them. I generally do best when I set some kind of time frame for myself, like going away for a couple of hours or an afternoon. Then I need to make an appointment with myself for when the work will resume. Turning back to work takes discipline, especially if the work hasn't been going well.

Third, I should continue to take regular smaller breaks. If I utterly exhaust myself and burn out, then I try to recharge with one coffee break, it just isn't enough. I can't make up for months of neglect with one hour of dessert. And I'll lose all the benefits of joy if I let the work hammer away at me with unrelenting noise. To sustain my new advantage, I need a couple of smaller breaks of 5-15 minutes a day, every day for the rest of the week.

Once a week, I should get away completely for an hour or two. This isn't possible every single week with a busy family. But if a month has passed and I have not done it, I know my life has become unbalanced. I am working too much, too hard, without any breaks, and I am headed for burnout. The longer I work without paying attention to joy, the less and less effective I become.

What's one thing you like to do that really takes you away from it all?


  1. I really like your 1-2-3! The power of joy.

    I have the pleasure of a date night with my husband once a week. It truly makes all the difference in the world for our whole family. Many thanks to Nana.

  2. WOW this is a wonderful post and such a great reminder! I'm really going to work on this!
    Thank you sister!
    God bless,

  3. Go to Borders, have a cup of decaf, and sit in a big overstuffed chair to read - alone!

  4. See, now I have a problem with getting back to it once I stop. I find if I just trudge through, when it's over I am much happier than trying to take a break in-between. But maybe for longer, week long tasks or something this would work well. Or writer's block - I remember in college if I couldn't get started on a paper, I would walk away for a while and when I came back to it sometimes I could get my thoughts out on paper :)

  5. I love this! Thank you (as always.)

  6. Great post!

    Well before we got our cat last summer, we always used to have a puzzle going on the card table in the kitchen area. It just invites you to stop and put a piece in it's place. It's great for company as a conversation piece that also invites them to join in the fun. Many times after dinner we'd go to the puzzle again. However, since the kitten arrived, we've put our puzzles away and play with him instead and he's been such a joy!


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