Scheduling Breaks

My days are shrinking; the afternoons go so quickly and I always end the day feeling like I had too little free time after work to do the non-work-related tasks I intended to do and the relaxation activities I hoped to enjoy. Some days, neither happen, while others, I’ll manage to piece together some of either category on my to-do list. Because I’m not good at switching between tasks, it’s not easy for me to balance my work hours with deliberate breaks during business hours to attend to other responsibilities like calling back medical offices, going to the post office, scheduling appointments, and calling customer service departments with issues that have stacked up. By staying “in the zone” while working and resisting a transition—even if brief—to shift to another task outside of work, the day can pass quickly before I’ve really registered that I’m running out of time to address these other tasks. My employers also prefer that I work in longer, continuous chunks rather than clock in and out for interspersed blips, which further dissuades me from attending to these other needs. When I do click out, it’s to have snacks and meals, but, for example, during my lunch break, most medical offices are closed for lunch as well, so I’m unable to connect with them. At the end of my work day after my final clock out, I’ve often missed the window of opportunity to catch the receptionists at the various offices, and I’m eager to rest and unwind anyway. It’s exceedingly unappealing to call a bunch of places (since I hate talking on the phone, hate medical appointments, and hate complaining about defective products or other customer service needs) when I’m tired and have worked all day; I just want to reward my efforts with something relaxing that enables me to unwind before bed, such as reading a good book or watching an entertaining show.

The solution is to batch the necessary calls together and to interject them as a chunk one morning a week or so as a 30-minute “break” from my job. That way, I will cut down on the number of required transitions and clock outs, while clearing out the to-do list. Because I’m so regimented and uninterested in these tasks that I tend to delay them until they become dire, it might be smart to actually schedule this block of time into my weekly routine, much like I do with self-directed therapy, to ensure the calls get made. By the same token, I need to start adhering to a hard stop time on my work day and blocking off the rest of my evening for recreational time; my routine is relatively devoid of any fun right now, which is not only unappealing, but unhealthy for someone who is constantly depressed. I need things in my daily life that bring me joy and ease my emotional burden. That’s exactly where carefree, lighthearted books and TV shows have merit in my life; they help temporarily steer me away from traumatizing memories or acute or remembered physical and psychological pain and redirect my mind via distraction to the lives, characters, and storylines in front of me. There are certainly days where I’m way too sick or upset to truly be transported from my reality to the fictional worlds of whatever media I’m indulging in. Sometimes, I feel like I need hours and hours to veg out and distract myself, but that’s just never realistic. However, it is important for me to consistently build at least a little of this unwinding time into every evening to keep my anxiety, stress, and depression at manageable levels; in a sense, doing so partially resets my tolerance meter every day so I can relax enough to go to sleep and rise the next day to face it all again. I get too high-strung, distraught, and down by bedtime if I’m go-go-go attacking responsibilities and triggers all day without indulgence of some leisure time to reset.

My schedule has been so bizarre lately between trying to work more and struggling to navigate drug-free sleeping, so it feels like the routine I was used to (and complacent with) has been upended a little too much for my liking. Hopefully, I can implement a few of these changes as a way to partially reclaim the perception that I’m accomplishing what I need to do as well as finding enough time to take care of myself mentally and physically. From my experiences failing to achieve this goal in the past couple of months, I can attest that it does lead to exhaustion, heightened stress, a lower mood, and burn out. Something has to change.

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