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  • Writer's pictureThe Grateful Academic

Is Taking a Break Beneficial? Exploring the Pros and Cons

There has been a little break in the content from the Grateful Academic over the past few months, and so for the first blog back I thought I would explore the pros and cons of taking a break.


Break /breɪk/ verb

an interruption of continuity


To start with, even the work 'break' is interesting, due to the multitude of ways it can be used, and how you might view the use of this word dependent on your current state of mind. So, what does comes to your mind when you read the word 'break'?

  • Is it positive and welcome, the relief of taking a break?

  • Is it wished for, I need a break.

  • It is frustrating, give me a break!

  • Is it saddening, I'm breaking.

  • Is it disillusioned, the system is broken.

For me, over the past six months a break has probably meant all of these things, but most important to me was using a break to step back and reflect. During my break I asked myself several questions:

Where am I at with my career?

What do I want from my career?

Am I on track to achieve what I want to achieve?

and most importantly,

Do I still enjoy what I do?

Taking time to assess where we are at can be a really powerful resetting tool, and it allows us to remember with gratitude how far we have come. And if we doubt this, which is easy to do when times are tough or overwhelming, ask yourself, what would your younger self say if they could see you now?

For me this meant I needed to remind myself of a few key positive truths. I am proud of my journey so far and I take pride in the work I do. I enjoy innovating and researching in pedagogy and find supporting students and colleagues in their own educational journeys extremely rewarding. I also love the fact that being an academic allows me to be creative, to think outside the box and to be surrounded by a community of people who are enthused by the idea of pushing the boundaries of knowledge.

This all sounds very positive, but it is only one side of the story. In order to move forward after a break, we must also acknowledge some not so pleasant truths:

  • A break may come not by choice, but by necessity. At these times, the most important thing to do may be to just simply rest and pause rather than trying to reflect straight away. When our mind needs a true break, reflecting too soon can end up focussing on the challenges, making it harder to see solutions and find positivity.

  • A break can lead to feelings of guilt. Other people having to pick up work, or your communications being slower or missing out on some key deadlines.

  • A break can mean you aren't as far on with tasks as you want. Yes, stepping back will inevitably mean that certain things have to wait until your return, and this can be hard to reconcile.

Whilst these more negative truths about breaks cannot be ignored, it is important not to let them derail us; otherwise the risk is we then try to push through, not taking a break at all, or we say we are taking a break, when really we are still working! Although I'm sure no academic has ever checked their email on annual leave or similar...

So how do we move forward after a break? The wonderful thing about this is you get to choose. We often might feel like this type of decision is beyond our control, but we need to remember that we can often influence more than we think.

At a very basic level here are four possible options after a break:

  1. Change nothing - decide that after a break you feel re-energised, that you are happy with your current role and the balance of your work and continue as before.

  2. Change something - decide that whilst you feel re-energised, the current balance of your work is not working for you. Reach out to a line manager or trusted mentor and talk about whether there are changes that could help you find the balance you need, or engage in something new that really inspired you.

  3. Change everything - decide that you need a change in direction, this might be a change in responsibility, working pattern, changing the way you work or even changing career.

  4. Extend the break - decide you are not ready to make a decision and that what you need is more time to think.

Notebook with quote written in calligraphy 'we create our reality from our daily choices the world consists of billions of realities'

None of these options are necessarily easy, and the whole process is individual - what works for one person may be totally different to what works for another, but whichever option you choose it will influence the way you move forward. All of these options also need input and support from people you trust and who understand how your role works, as well as support from those that care about you.

So, if you are taking or thinking about taking a break, perhaps spare a moment to reflect on with gratitude your successes to date, be proud of how you've come, acknowledge that not everything about taking a break may feel good at the time, but know that you can influence your path ahead.


Top tips on taking breaks

Top Tip box on taking breaks

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