How to REALLY Take A Break: When You Unplug, What Do You Plug In To? 


Picture this: The past quarter at your work has been extremely busy to the point that the workload is overwhelming and stressful. You and your coworkers are all working extra time- if not overtime. However, you have something to look forward to: a week-long vacation with your family. 

Everything is booked and ready to go. You manage to get your family to the airport in one piece and as soon as you land at your destination, everyone is excited to hit the beach! You spend an entire week eating at nice restaurants, hanging out at the beach, and thrill-seeking in various ways. You jump from activity to activity, hardly even pausing to breathe. When your family arrives back home, everyone talks about how much fun they had; overall, your family vacation was a success!

Why, then, are you even more tired when you get back to work than you were before you left?

During this time of the year, everyone starts thinking about taking a weekend trip, a resort getaway, or some other sort of distraction from their jobs. Everyone hustles and strives for productivity for most of the year with the expectation that a few days off or a week-long vacation will allow them to work effectively for the rest of the year. However, in this blog, I’d like to explore another perspective on rest that could completely change the way you approach your work. 

How to Actually Recharge 

What if I told you that simply taking time off from work is NOT the same thing as resting, not to mention recharging? Yes, taking time off work for a well-deserved vacation to the beach, the slopes, or the city can be a lot of fun and a nice reward for hard work. However, these vacations do little to help give your brain a break. Humans are designed to gravitate to routine; on vacation, everything is different to the point that even starting your pot of coffee in the morning requires some extra thought. If anything, your brain has to work overtime on vacation to keep up with new and unfamiliar stimuli! 

Additionally, expecting a vacation to provide you with adequate rest is like eating one large meal at the beginning of the week and expecting it to keep you full for the entire week. If we were to eat this way, we’d be hungry all the time! Similarly, instead of looking for a long spurt of rest for your brain and body all at once, rest is something you need to try to integrate into your day-to-day routines. Shifting your perspective on rest in this way allows you to work at a more sustainable pace. Over time, not only will this increase your productivity, workflow, and overall health – it will allow you to fully enjoy the vacations you do take!

Why is it that rest is more effective as a practice than as an occasional break or vacation? There is a physiological and psychological reason!

The Amygdala Hijack

Your brain is composed of many different parts that are all responsible for different things. The part of your brain called the frontal lobe is responsible for logic, reasoning, and decision-making. Oftentimes, when making decisions or long-term planning, this is the part of the brain that is engaged. However, there is another part of your brain called the amygdala, which is responsible for your body’s response to stress and fear. This response is known as the “fight or flight” response (also sometimes called “fight, flight, freeze, or appease”). Often, when we have been training and planning ahead of time, our frontal lobe kicks in and allows us to respond to overwhelming situations with rationality; in some situations, however, when a stressor is too intense or our brains are too overwhelmed, our amygdala takes over, and our biological instinct kicks in instead. This process is known as the amygdala hijack, and this can greatly affect our ability to respond to situations in a calm, collected manner. We react instead of respond.

You might wonder, “What does that have to do with my office job?” We typically don’t think of our everyday workplace mishaps as stressful enough to elicit a “fight, flight, freeze, or appease” response. However, the brain doesn’t process stressors one at a time- stress tends to compound. Even if your day-to-day workday seems relatively manageable, stress tends to add up quickly! For example, a simple message or phone call that says, “There is an issue I need to talk with you about,” can trigger this reaction if you’ve had a million similar interactions throughout the week. When you’re stretching yourself thin and just trying to make it to your next break, you drain your battery’s charge, which decreases your brain’s ability to process and reasonably respond to stress and increases the risk of you reacting inappropriately to a workplace crisis. 

Believe me, I understand how tempting it is to think you don’t have time for frequent breaks, even if they are small. You have projects to deliver to clients, meetings to attend, presentations to prepare for, and so much more- and it already probably feels like you don’t have enough time for those things as it is. However, I promise you that if you make rest a part of your routine, you’ll save yourself so much time and energy that you otherwise would waste on stress, overwhelm, and burnout. 

How Can I Recharge? 

We’ve established that sustained periods without rest are bad for your brain and body, and we’ve explained why. Now, you’re probably wondering exactly how you are supposed to make rest a sustainable practice! Well, rest doesn’t simply mean stopping the things that stress you out and doing nothing. To recharge, you must replace a stressful activity with one that you find relaxing!

The physiological and psychological reason this works to help us recharge is the concept of eustress vs. distress. Eustress refers to a manageable, normal amount of stress. Instead of overwhelming our senses, eustress works to challenge us, excite us, and motivate us to do better. Eustress can come from many different avenues, such as starting a new project at work, progressing in a hobby, or trying a new meal. In contrast, distress refers to types of stress that negatively impact our growth and learning. When demands placed on us begin to feel overwhelming or unachievable, our performance decreases. With any given activity, eustress can easily turn to distress. What can we do to stop that? By finding other avenues of your day-to-day life that enact eustress.

Think about your phone. We all know that putting our phones on Airplane Mode doesn’t recharge the battery; it simply slows down the rate at which the current battery drains. Your brain is the same way! Taking time away from things that overwhelm you won’t automatically recharge you- it will simply stop you from becoming more tired than you already are. To fully recharge your energy, you need to find activities that fulfill your different needs- you need to replace your distress with eustress!

There are a few main components of your well-being that you should consider when you think about activities that will help you recharge. These components include your physical, mental, emotional, relational, and spiritual well-being. When you’re looking to recharge in any of these areas, you should look for activities that provide stimulation without requiring mental strain. 


It sounds contradictory, but engaging in light physical activity can be an extremely beneficial contribution to a lifestyle where rest is prioritized. Doctors recommend that the average person get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week to stay healthy. This can be any sort of activity that gets you on your feet and moving, such as:

  • Going for a walk, run, hike 
  • Lifting weights
  • Mowing the lawn
  • Cutting firewood with an ax (my personal favorite!)


To mentally recharge, you should prioritize activities that engage you mentally, but not activities that require a lot of strenuous thought or deliberation. Great examples of these activities include

  • Crocheting or knitting
  • Reading a book
  • Completing a jigsaw puzzle
  • Playing crosswords, Sudoku, and other similar games


When life gets busy, our emotional health is one of the things we often tend to neglect the most. However, your emotional health is important for keeping yourself regulated- your feelings will come to the surface one way or another, so it’s best to deal with them in a healthy, timely manner. Some activities that can help you feel and process your emotions include:

  • Journaling
  • Talking with a friend or family member
  • Seeing a counselor or therapist


When our brains become overwhelmed with stress, we often forget to prioritize the things we value, such as our relationships. To properly rest, we must take time out of our schedules to recharge our relationships. Some easy ways to do this are: 

  • Calling a family member to catch up
  • Meeting a friend for coffee on your lunch break
  • Serving others through volunteer work


Lastly, when you’re looking to recharge, you should think about your spiritual needs! Although spiritual needs can be addressed by religious practices a person does not have to be religious to have spiritual needs,- your spiritual needs involve your feelings of interconnectedness with other people, nature, and the world at large. Some ways to address this need are

  • Prayer
  • Meditation
  • Spending time in nature

Although each of these components represents a different facet of our well-being, they are all interconnected. Therefore, some activities can work to fulfill more than one need at a time! For example, when you share your problems with a friend, this could work to provide both emotional and relational rest. 

Prioritize Wellness

If you truly want to thrive in your personal life and the workplace, it’s time to stop viewing “rest” as a vacation you take once or twice a year. When we work ourselves to the bone and then except a week away to help us feel rejuvenated, we do ourselves a HUGE disservice. Take time on a regular basis to address your needs, and find simple but enjoyable activities to restore those needs. 

The Fortlog Advantage

Organizations across North America have been benefiting from FORTLOG’s Interpersonal Crisis Management, Coaching & Consulting services for over 30 years, counting on John to help shepherd them through their most challenging storms. Today, a growing number of workplaces benefit from John’s proven strategies, systems and speeches that focus on integrating core-value practices “not just policies and procedures''.

Scroll to Top