Are You Taking a Break or Distracting Yourself?


As a business owner, there are bound to be times when you feel overwhelmed, stressed and strung out.  When you just want to escape.  When you just need a break.

When this happens, you might turn to:

  • Food
  • TV
  • Computer games
  • Facebook
  • Exercise
  • Alcohol

Or anything else that gets you out of the situation.

Taking breaks can be WONDERFUL and highly therapeutic.  Sometimes, though, what you’re really doing is distracting yourself, and that’s not nearly as helpful.

When we distract ourselves, we’re avoiding feeling our feelings and noticing our thoughts.  We’re disconnecting from ourselves.

Distraction doesn’t give us the relaxation and recharge that we crave.  And it doesn’t do anything to deal with the underlying feelings like fear, shame and unworthiness.

Distractions take up two of our most precious resources – our time and our energy.

Anything can be either a distraction or a break, depending on three key factors.

  1. Intention

With a break, you’re getting away from the situation for a short time and reconnecting with yourself.  The goal is to breathe, relax and recharge your batteries so that you come back refreshed.

With a distraction, the point is to disconnect or check out.  To escape from your thoughts and your feelings.  Even though this intention is often unconscious, it plays a huge role.  In fact, the desire to distract yourself can have the same feeling of urgency and stress that led you to want to get away in the first place.

  1. Attention

When you’re taking a break, you stay present to what you’re doing and engaged with it.  You’re centered in your body and are aware of your own thoughts.

With a distraction, your body may be doing one thing, but your mind and attention are off somewhere else.  You may not even be aware of what you’re doing.

  1. Retention

After you’ve had a break, you come back relaxed, refreshed and ready to focus again.  You come back with your batteries recharged.

When you come back from a distraction, you’re almost as wound up as before.  Your stress level quickly returns to where it was before you got away.  Pretty soon, you’ll probably want to get away again because your need for a break was never met.

Here’s an example of how eating can either be a distraction or a break.

Let’s say you take a break and eat your lunch.  You sit somewhere other than at your desk, maybe even outside.  Your attention is on your food and you notice how it tastes.  You chew your food and take deep breaths.  You’re aware of your thoughts and feelings.  You notice when you’re full and feel content and nourished when you’re done.  In short, you’re present to yourself and your meal.

If eating is a distraction, you’re likely to multitask while you eat.  Reading, watching TV or listening to something helps distract your mind.  You’re surprised to see that you’ve finished and don’t really remember how the food tasted.  You don’t feel satisfied when you’re done and always want a little bit more.  And you still feel tense.

The point of all of this isn’t for you to feel guilty or bad about escaping through distractions.  And being with your feelings doesn’t mean wallowing in heavy emotions or sitting and complaining about how unfair life is.

What I AM talking about is acknowledging and allowing the thoughts and feelings that are there, rather than pushing them down or hiding from them.  About opening up new possibilities so that you’re more present, nurtured and nourished in your life.

You don’t have to quit your distractions cold turkey.  This is something I help clients with, and often the shift happens organically over time.  As we clear away the fears and limiting beliefs, there’s no longer a need for the distraction.  The natural result is more presence and engagement with life and yourself.

For now, I encourage you to notice what you’re choosing and how it affects you.  Make your choices more consciously.  It’s okay to CHOOSE to distract yourself, and it’s okay to get help.

If you’d like, do a combination of distracting and taking a break.  Just take a few deep breaths and center yourself before and after the activity.  Maybe touch base with yourself a couple of times along the way.

And smile at yourself.  Letting go of distractions is a lot bigger step than it might look like, so be gentle and loving with you.

What you can gain by doing this is a deeper level of presence in your life and greater access to the power and clarity that are already within you.  And that’s an amazing experience!


Comments 4

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      It’s so easy to confuse the two, isn’t it Ann?! I learned this from my own experience, and still use it to check in with myself.

      Thanks for writing in!
      Sara 🙂

  1. Get out of my head!!!


    Seriously… I opened my email, and found this (My very first thought was, “Oops, busted!”)…

    The universe isn’t letting me get away with *anything* these days; I must have something important to do! :laughing:

    Thank you for writing this and reminding me; now, I’m getting back to work 🙂

    1. Post

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