It's only been five months since my husband and I planted our American feet into Germany for a two-year adventure, and already, my work-life perspectives have radically changed.
Physically uprooting from Denver has undoubtedly inspired me to live differently, but guess what? You don't have to move to a foreign country to shift your lifestyle.
What got me living to a simpler beat (a non-work-obsessed beat) was shaking up my normal and immersing myself in environments that took a 180 from my work groove.
You know how in order to nail down a new habit, you've got to stick with something for 30 days? Try 100. That's the number of days I spent away from my business, Brit Stueven PR.
Just a few weeks before we left Denver, I made a conscious decision to press pause on what I now see was my biggest addiction: MY BUSINESS. Deep down, I knew something had to change.
If I didn't force some distance, I knew I'd return with regrets. One question would remain: Why did I spend those two years on my laptop and NOT seizing life in Dusseldorf?
Pressing pause was a game changer.
I finally learned how to take a break.
Whether for 100 days or 10 minutes, I finally learned why we need breaks.
For as long as I can remember, I've been a doer. I was the kid who asked my dad to give me math problems after I finished my homework. When friends came over, they were guaranteed a role in my latest "venture." From neighborhood newscasts to making magazines, we were always creating something.
By college, I let loose and skinned my academic knees, but that's also when I started working and interning... a lot. I felt high when my plate was heaviest and proud of how much I could juggle.
This mindset made its way into my professional path and continually influenced my inability to come up for air. I couldn't justify it. There was always something waiting to be captured, completed, improved or responded to.
To me, the less breaks I took, the more I'd get done, and the more chances I'd have of getting promoted. Right? WRONG. At one point, I invested so much time and energy in landing a promised promotion that I worked myself physically and mentally ill -- right into two weeks of medical leave.
When I started working for myself, I really didn't know when to stop.
There were, of course, deeper reasons why I became so work-obsessed. With the help of some great life coaching, I uncovered catalysts from my past and began some serious inner work.
What I still couldn't do? Take breaks.
Taking time for me got in the way. Clients were more important.
There were countless days I'd get so lost in my laptop or be buzzing from one place to another, I'd forget to take time for me and my well-being. When I actually took time for lunch, I was still working, hovering over my laptop or tapping away on my iPhone. I was in email land at stop lights, while watching movies with my husband and more. I was always on.
Work had become the basis of my identity and daily motivation.
It wasn't until I took that PAUSE and started navigating new life roles (expat, homemaker, hostess, cook-in-training, English teacher, German student) that I realized how tunnel-visioned and work-obsessed I'd become.
I'd forgotten how to play, explore and just be.
Yes, it's quite early in this journey, but I've learned some tremendous lessons so far. Here are just SOME of the reasons we need to take breaks.
1. We're able to deactivate and reactivate our goals.
Because I took time away, I was able to see that I was working harder, not smarter. When you take too much on and don't take time for yourself, there's room for error and risk of burnout.
One hundred days into my hiatus, a favorite client reached out. Women in the Mix was looking for a sponsor guide and event flyer to complement the media kit I'd created for them.
I was undoubtedly hesitant. "Will this send me into a work bender?" I thought. "Will this pull me away from my new and oh-so-fleeting time in Germany?"
Something felt right, though. The same voice that told me to press pause was now telling me to dive back in.
I've since re-opened my virtual doors, but with boundaries in place, a refueled approach and even a break-inspired program in the works. I'd be lying if I said there was no fear or hesitation, but I have mad faith in accountability partners, the power of community support and what happens when we stretch our wings.
2. We have more room to try new things.
Hopping out of our comfort bubbles, even in the smallest of ways, awakens our senses. We look and listen a lot harder. We taste differently. We're bound to be more adventurous, and by default, become more present.
Since moving to Deutschland, I've gained a new appreciation for cooking and trying loads of new foods. I've taught English to large companies, taken German classes with people from all over the world, made a fool of myself in Zumba class, attended Bible studies, joined women in storming city hall and then some. I've even worn a full-body chicken suit. (One word: Karneval.)
Go do something you'd never see yourself doing. Whether for an hour, a day, or even two years, you won't regret it. It WILL be awkward and painful at times, but that's how you'll know you're growing.
3. Our work is better because of it.
We'll return with fresh eyes and maybe even some new ideas. Taking brief, mental breaks will actually keep us focused and less likely to make mistakes.
Studies have shown that some of the mind's stickiest problems are solved whilst daydreaming.
Stepping away from "focus mode" allows our brain to make connections and realizations. I can't tell you how many realizations and breakthroughs I've had while NOT staring into a screen.
4. We see the bigger picture.
When we don't take breaks, we get lost in the weeds. We lose sight of our long-term goals or the mission that got us moving in the first place. Taking a step back pulls us from our personal silos and enables aha moments.
5. We enable possibility.
Do you ever notice how when you go on vacation, take a new path in a park or even try a new restaurant, a different mindset kicks in? You're bound to take a few more chances and venture in different directions.
There's more room for unexpected surprises and maybe even something that will change everything... IF you're present enough to notice it.
Remember this video? You know, the one about all the things we're missing when we're not looking up from our phones? You never know what might happen when you take a break from your device, work or normal routine. You just might meet your soulmate or a new friend. You might discover a hidden talent, hobby or favorite place.
Breaks encourage spontaneity, letting go of control and embracing the possibilities of life. So stop what you're doing, and go take a breather, will ya?!