10 Great Ways to Take a Break (When You Can’t Take a Break)

Photography: Kantha Bae

By Sarah R. Moore

Just about every adult in the world would love to take a break from reality this week. And just about every one of those same adults, can’t. We’re somewhere between wanting to know all of the details of what’s going on around us-and wishing we could somehow escape it all. 

Here we are at home, though many of us in uncharted waters with homeschooling, teleworking, or perhaps wondering how we’ll make this work financially. These are tricky times, to be sure. 

For many of us, our stress levels are reflecting our intense need to take care of ourselves – but how in the world do we weave in “self-care” when we’re practising social distancing or, in some areas, quarantined? We can’t just take a break because we feel like it. 

Of course, I’ve never been through a COVID-19 pandemic before. No one has.

However, I have experienced a micro-version of social isolation. For a good long while, it was just me and my small child, 24×7. We were about as isolated as we could be by the world’s previous standards and I was lonely as heck. So, this doesn’t feel completely foreign to me right now. 

With this experience, I know some ways to take a break when you really can’t

I don’t claim it’s even remotely the same as the world’s current situation, but it’s the closest I’ve got. Here’s what worked for me – ways I’ve truly taken care of myself – when I simply couldn’t take a break. 


It’s almost impossible not to breathe deeply while you stretch. The combination of deep breaths and stretching “stimulates receptors in the nervous system that decrease the production of stress hormones.” (source)

Hold your stretching position for as long as you can. The more you can relax into it, the better.

If it’s uncomfortable, still wait there as long as you can. You’ll feel better for it. 

Take a break from the screens 

At the moment, screens aren’t really allowing us to take a break. We’re not coming up refreshed after looking at them. Further, it’s highly unlikely that anything urgent will appear in our newsfeed while we take an hour (or a day) offline. We’d be naïve to understand that screens are linked to anxiety and depression in kids but think they have no effect on us. The screens will be here when you get back. Take a break and see what good things happen

If you find yourself feeling symptoms of anxiety or withdrawal from your screen time, it might be time to do something about it

Enjoy a small change of scenery 

Go in the other room as a family. Eat dinner in the living room. “Camp” in each other’s bedrooms or swap beds for the night.

Do whatever you need to, to get out of a funk and feel like you’re creating a safe emotional space.

Even taking your laptop into the kitchen rather than the bedroom – or wherever you normally work – can give you a fresher perspective. Look out a different window. 

Choose your mental happy place and go there often 

Do you have a happy place? Go there. In fact, I recommend choosing about three of them so you can change your mental scenery as often as you need to. Daydreaming is definitely not a crime. It can prove incredibly beneficial even if you just zone out for awhile amidst the physical or emotional noise around you. 

Imagine the details-do you feel the warm sand between your toes? Is there a breeze blowing the trees ever so gently? Are you warm or comfortably cool? What does the air smell like? You know where you feel best. You have the power to go there anytime you’d like. Add enough detail so that it’s vivid and relaxing. 

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