It's time to take a break! — R Voice

It's time to take a break!

Shruti Turner
Shruti Turner Member Posts: 342 ✭✭✭✭
edited May 25 in Self-care & Wellbeing

In the past day alone, I've seen at least 2 or 3 tweets from people asking about if it's okay to take a break or whether others feel guilty doing so. The guilt of not working in academia and research isn't a new one, no matter what stage we are at. At the moment, it seems to be an increasingly common theme on people's minds.

I am massively in favour of taking breaks when we need it, even a 10-minute break to find some mental peace away from work, or a walk outside or even, if things are particularly difficult and you have the freedom to do so, a whole day off to reset and recharge.

We do our best work when we are feeling good ourselves.

How do you feel about taking a break from your work? Do you feel like you're able to?


  • Andrea Hayward
    Andrea Hayward Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 573 admin
    edited May 27

    @Shruti Turner thanks for starting this thread. A conversation like this is always timely. 🙂

    Like you, I come across several tweets in which people are either asking if it's okay to take a break of expressing guilt about taking one. In theory, I feel like on some level, everyone knows that it's okay to take a break. I mean, it's only logical, right? It seems as though the guilt stems from very specific concerns, thoughts, and even fears. I recently started a conversation about this on Twitter and ended up getting some interesting responses. I think you'll like this thread:

    Personally, I do believe that taking breaks are both essential and necessary! But like most people, I'm a work in progress, in that I'm better at taking breaks and cutting myself some slack on some days, and then I'm not so good at it on other days. I have surely come a long way and am happy with my progress though. I've gone from being someone who'd refuse to step back from the work at hand, even if it gave me a headache, to someone who understands when her body needs to rest and will take a step back even in the middle of a busy work day. I guess that working from home has helped me do this a lot better. I am also VERY fortunate to be working with kind, understanding individuals who go out of their way to remind me that taking breaks is okay and that I should take care of myself. 😊

  • Raj sundaram
    Raj sundaram Member Posts: 322 ✭✭✭✭
    edited May 30

    Thanks for starting this thread, @Shruti Turner . As @Andrea Hayward mentioned, logically - at least some of us know that we should be taking breaks. However, the "logic" can kind of get muddled by various factors.

    In my case - external factors played a huge role.. I had no choice but to keep working - until my body and mind broke down.

    I think many people in academia face a similar scenario due to various factors - less than helpful workplaces/power dynamics, instability or limited time/resources (1-2 year contracts) - sometimes related visa/funding issues, etc. Plus academia is infamous for making people feel "less" about themselves, especially in early stages of career. People work on the basis of guilt. "Not enough publications, not enough impact factor, not enough conference presentations, CV doesnt look good, what about my future, am I a bad researcher?". This leads to people pushing themselves to their limit but also being blamed for it - "for not managing themselves/their health/stress better" should they have a breakdown.

    Plus we also hear a lot of guilt-tripping views (opposing view points) - "if you are passionate, work should be play, you shouldnt need rest" (the corollary being if you need rest -> you are not passionate enough). Last but not the least there are several "role models" who burn the midnight oil and are extolled for it. Basically, academic culture can get really irrational, counterintuitive, conflicting - often amounting to "heads I win, tails you lose". Some stories I hear: I basically have one remark - "that is like working in an Amazon warehouse" - in the same sentiment conveyed by the PBS documentary.

    In addition - although we are talking about short breaks. On a related note, university-based academia as a system still punishes "longer" breaks - maternity/a stint in the industry/taking a career break (for whatever reasons).

    Of course, many of these notions/mindsets and situations are changing - very slowly. But these circumstances vary wildly across the board. There is certainly more awareness now, at the very least. I think there needs to be an overhaul of the system to become a bit more humane...

    Coming back to can I take breaks - recently, with a bit more stability (and since I climbed the hierarchy) and after creating a better local work environment with trustworthy relationships (that took 7 long years to establish - mainly with assistants who work with me), I can take short breaks - say turning up for work a bit late/taking a day off when I am sick without feeling guilty (not always easy, however). Also, with experience - I have learnt to beat myself up lesser or pace myself/slow down when I need a break. But that also stems to my relatively more stable current situation - a bit higher in the hierarchy.

  • Shruti Turner
    Shruti Turner Member Posts: 342 ✭✭✭✭

    @Andrea Hayward Thank you for sharing your thoughts and the Twitter thread! I did indeed find it an interesting read. I think I must apologise for giving a false impression - I am by no means perfect either...a work in progress as you say. I can totally relate to everything you've written in that second half of your post, I feel I could have written it. Logic and guilt do not always (in my experience very rarely) co-exist and lead us to the same thing. In my mind, the conversation and awareness is the first step in moving forward to allowing ourselves to take a break, and also the first step in making a change to the culture of academia. I am so grateful to have the supervisor I do, who cares about me as a person as well as a researcher. When I have supervised students, it is her approach I try to take on.

    @Raj sundaram You make some really valuable points about the "external" factors. Sometimes, things go beyond the control of ourselves or even our immediate supervisors. The notion of being able to take a break, is so complex and you've summarised it so clearly - thank you! One of the things putting me off a career in academia is these external factors, and the impact on guilt, work-life balance and ultimately my mental health. One reason I love this community is hearing others, virtually meeting like-minded people and restoring my hope.