Helping women with chronic illnesses

Taking A Break: Not Always A Piece Of Cake!

Taking a break. It sounds easy, right? It sounds like something to look forward to, doesn’t it? Sometimes it is just that. However, I would hazard a guess that many people who live with chronic illness and chronic pain have times where they find it extremely difficult to take a break. Taking a break isn’t always a piece of cake.

Generally speaking, I tend to operate on “the edge” most of the time. What do I mean by “the edge”? Well, I have a tendency to push myself… hard. Sometimes I push myself too hard. This can result in sleep deprivation, loss of perspective on what the healthy limits are (for me with my chronically ill body), and burnout. So, when something unexpected comes up or added stressors enter the picture it can be very difficult for me to deal with everything at once.

The trick for me is in knowing how and when to pull back from activities that must wait (such as writing this blog and replying to messages) during times when I just don’t have enough energy to do everything I want to do. Taking a break from my blog is quite stressful for me. It causes me to become disconnected from the wonderful, supportive online community of people living with chronic illness. It results in me getting behind on replying to emails and Facebook messages from other patients. It also makes me get behind moderating and replying to blog comments. Getting backlogged on all of the above is stressful for me. I don’t like the idea that anyone might think I’m ignoring them. Taking a “break” only to return to a backlog of messages stresses me out.

Here is the thing, though. There are times when taking a break is absolutely needed and warranted. The “break” may not necessarily be to rest. It may be to focus on other activities that need attention. It may not be a “break” in the traditional sense at all. It may simply be a temporary change in routine. A change of focus. The type of break I’m talking about is more the kind where one is not necessarily resting (not that those type of breaks aren’t important too!); it is the type of break where one chooses (or is forced to accept) that one set of activities must be put on hold for a certain period of time. There either aren’t enough hours in the day or there isn’t enough energy in the person to do everything on his/her plate.

How about you?

What does it take to make you take a break? Do your loved ones need to remind you to take a break? Do you recognize it yourself and take swift action? Does it vary… sometimes you take swift action to get things “into balance” but other times you push yourself too hard and life ends up forcing you to accept your limits? Do you find it difficult to balance everything on your plate? How do you restore balance when things get out of kilter?

I would really love to hear everyone’s ideas on this. Please take a moment to leave a blog comment. You don’t need to have a blog to leave a comment. To leave a blog comment, all you need is your name (screen name is fine) and email address (which no one will see but me). This (finding balance/knowing when to “take a break”) is a topic that affects everyone but it really impacts people living with chronic illness. I would love to hear from people regarding how they cope with finding a balance, prioritizing tasks, managing time, and preventing burnout. Your comments are appreciated.

This post was written by Jeanne at Copyright © Jeanne — All rights reserved.

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Reading: Taking A Break: Not Always A Piece Of Cake!


1 Jannie FunsterNo Gravatar { 10.14.11 at 4:19 pm }

Dearest Jeanne, first of all you’re VERY VERY naughty taunting me with that cookie, tea, and chocolate cake — but since I know you to be such an awesome friend, I’ll forgive you!! 🙂 🙂 And would forgive you if you put cake in every post of yours.

Great post. Great questions.

What does it take to make you take a break?

A headache will do it. I pretty-much get a head-ache when I’m doing too much.

Do your loved ones need to remind you to take a break?

No, not really. But I do see my hubby roll his eyes at the counter-top and sink of dishes waiting. So I guess, in that respect I’m taking quite a lot of breaks already.

Do you recognize it yourself and take swift action?

When I do need breaks from just everything that adds up in a day, a nap or just lying down for 30 minutes helps a LOT.

Does it vary… sometimes you take swift action to get things “into balance” but other times you push yourself too hard and life ends up forcing you to accept your limits?

Well, if I find myself in situations where I have a lot on my plate, and can’t get out of any of the commitments, I get a little (or a lot) cranky, and have a tendency to speak snappishly at my nearest and dearest. And then I apologize to them.

Do you find it difficult to balance everything on your plate? How do you restore balance when things get out of kilter?

Some days there is a LOT going on. As I said, naps can help me. Some people suggest laughing out loud repeatedly and you will FEEL better. Sometimes that will work. Singing helps a lot sometimes. Or a stroll around the block with deep breaths in the air, but I don’t like to walk when it’s like over 80 degrees.

What I do also is try to say NO to the things that come along, so many things, some school-related for my daughter. Maybe I can answer a longer e-mail with a shorter one. I tend to volunteer less and less for things — and have learned to not feel much, if any guilt. Just generally shy away from making more work for myself by initiating favors if I feel an acquaintance could benefit from me doing something for them. People will be fine without me.

As one of the school moms said the other day “there is always something else to do.” And I replied “Yes, and there will always be somebody else to do it.” And I think it’s really true. It’s often the amount of worry and guilt we attach to something that is our true energy-drainer. It’s OKAY to do less. It’s OKAY to take care of ourselves FIRST!!!


Sorry if typos, actually going to put some dishes in the dishwasher now. And sing while cleaning up — my voice exercises, nice and gentle at first, building up to greater intensity by the end of the 15 minutes.

P.S. I know this message is long, as you asked some really valid questions about real concerns. Short reply fine, my dear!!
Jannie Funster´s last [type] ..They Wanted To Be Poets

2 JasmineNo Gravatar { 10.14.11 at 9:02 pm }

I found it difficult to take a break when I was working full-time, and going from specialist to specialist, trying to find the cause of my symptoms (when all they wanted to do was write prescriptions). Years after I stopped working, I still had difficulty taking breaks. I constantly pushed myself to the limit – where exhaustion and/or major pain would ultimately decide when a break was needed. I knew it wasn’t healthy, but I didn’t know any other way.

I’m not 100% sure when I made the conscious decision to slow my mind and body down. I definitely began looking at my illness differently after reading “A New Earth,” by Eckhart Tolle.

When I discovered my Neuro, who also specializes in Ayurveda, I slowly began to see layers of my health issues peel away with each detox. At first my body didn’t know how to handle diminishing certain foods from my diet. (I think it was pissed, to be honest. How dare I remove the artificial man-made chemicals it had grown to love, literally and figuratively.) Many times when I didn’t follow my doctor’s diet restrictions, I would once again feel foggy, bloated, migrainey, moody, mind racing, difficulty sleeping, easily stressed, etc. (I’m not implying this is why you’re in this predicament Jeanne. This is what I discovered for myself.)

These days when something has the potential to overwhelm me, I am able to take a beat, a breath. If it gets at me too quickly, and I get sucked in I can analyze it on the spot and even laugh about it to myself or with my husband. I’m not worried about being perfect anymore. I’m not worried about what others think of me anymore. I’m not worried about being a peacemaker, or needing to convince someone of some belief that may differ from my own. I love myself and accept myself, faults and all. It’s a process.
Jasmine´s last [type] ..Curious about medication side effects?

3 AnnieNo Gravatar { 10.16.11 at 3:15 pm }

I appreciate this post because I am having a very hard time with taking a break when needed. After years of cutting things out of my life because I couldn’t handle any extra stress, now I feel like I should be able to add everything back in all at once. And that’s not working out too well. Surprise! So I appreciate the tips shared here.
Annie´s last [type] ..Suicide Bombs and Sleeper Cells

4 JeanneNo Gravatar { 10.19.11 at 3:08 pm }


I’m sorry you were tempted and I’m glad you found it in your heart to forgive me. 😉 Don’t worry; I don’t plan to put cake photos in every post.

I have reflected on your comment, my dear, and here is my brief reply. My conclusion is that I need to enroll in the Jannie Funster Institute! It sounds like you’re ahead of me on the prevention-of-burnout path. Laughter really is helpful. You’re right about that. Between your singing exercises (when is your 2nd CD going to be out?) and being the head honcho of Funsterment Management (that most awesome laughter-generation company), I think you’re ahead of the curve on this stuff. There really is a lot of power in just saying “no” to things and not getting guilted into taking on too much. Plus, the value of naps can never be underestimated!


I know you’ve done lots of great work on this stuff. Thank you for the ideas.

Working full time while juggling specialist appointments is very challenging. Sadly, many allopathic doctors tend to want to prescribe medications over finding the cause of the symptoms. I think pushing oneself to the limit can become so deeply engrained that it’s a very hard habit to break. This is especially true when people don’t know any other way and I truly think there are many people who don’t (know any other way)… whether they are sick or healthy.

I’m glad you found a path to enable the conscious decision-making that you do now (to slow your mind and body down).

It’s really great that you discovered your doctor. I know you’ve found those lifestyle changes very helpful. I know exactly what you’re talking about with making changes that are good ones to make – but with having the body say “I object” initially. It does take time to see the full effect of certain changes, I think. I’ve never done Ayurveda but I have tried a great many dietary changes over the years to deal with the symptoms of various illnesses. I know how difficult it can be to make such changes.

(P.S. I know that’s not what you meant. You’re so sweet). 😉

In the last nearly-eleven years, my acupuncturist has opened my eyes to a different paradigm. The lifestyle changes he first suggested to me when I started seeing him were quite an adjustment for me.

Not worrying about being “perfect” is very liberating, isn’t it? I used to spend a lot of energy worrying about what others thought of me but I keep stepping away from that mindset as best I can. Playing peacemaker can be draining too. I know exactly what you mean. I steer far away from trying to convince people of my beliefs. At the same time, I realize I have a tendency (which I try to steer clear of) to sound a bit preachy at times. This happens when I’m really passionate about something and I’m trying to explain it (i.e. not to tell someone else what to think but to give them a heads up about something they may not be aware of). I know that my passion can sometimes make it appear as if I’m trying to sway someone (i.e. if I discover an endometriosis scammer preying on patients, I tend to warn others and sometimes, in doing so, I know I may come across as preachy… which is not my intent). I have plenty of work ahead of me but if I look back at where I was 10 years ago, I know I’ve learned useful things. As you said, it really is a process.


I’m really glad the topic of this post may have given you a moment to stop and take a breath. Self-care is so important. Taking breaks really can be more difficult than it sounds. Adding “everything back in all at once” could be risky for you. While you may be experiencing a remission of symptoms now, you still have a chronic illness. Also, you have been through (understatement ahead!) some very emotional experiences. You now have more physical demands added to the mix. So, please be careful (there I go sounding preachy… sorry!) about how much you add in. I’m sorry what you’ve been doing hasn’t been working out too well. I hope that you can find what works for you so that you can achieve a balance. I know you had to take measures to avoid extra stress before. From my outside perspective (and I know it’s none of my business), you may need to keep taking most/all of those measures for the time being. You have a lot on your plate and overdoing may exacerbate things. I would love it if you could get some enjoyment out of this period of symptom remission. 😉

I say that not as a nosy-body but as someone who cares about your well-being.



5 Jannie FunsterNo Gravatar { 10.26.11 at 4:23 pm }

Dearest Jeanne, please consider yourself now fully enrolled for the course at the Jannie Funster Institute.

Once your lifetime study is complete, you will be fully adept as sitting on your a#$ eating cake, writing poems, drinking wine, beer, margaritas and singing songs in the moonlight.

My second CD… I has been hoping March 2012, but anytime up to 12 months after that will be the new time-frame.

Jannie Funster´s last [type] ..One Day We Will Say — a poem

6 JeanneNo Gravatar { 11.09.11 at 1:08 am }


Please let me know when the next semester at Jannie Funster Institute begins.

I am already skilled ay eating cake. My poems need your expert help. I don’t drink alcoholic beverages. So, those are out. I’m sorry to say that no amount of instruction will enable me to sing songs in the moonlight. I’ll have to lip-synch to some Jannie Funster songs. If I were to sing out loud, I’d scare away any neighboring wildlife. Seriously.

I can’t wait for your next CD!!!



7 alohamorakatNo Gravatar { 11.13.11 at 7:23 pm }


Hope you feel better and try not to push yourself really hard. You can get really, really sick doing that!


8 JeanneNo Gravatar { 11.13.11 at 8:04 pm }


You’re right. Pushing oneself too hard can cause trouble. I hope you’re getting enough rest. 😉


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