“The mind must be given relaxation — it will rise improved and sharper after a good break. Just as rich fields must not be forced — for they will quickly lose their fertility if never given a break — so constant work on the anvil will fracture the force of the mind. But it regains its powers if it is set free and relaxed for a while. Constant work gives rise to a certain kind of dullness and feebleness in the rational soul.”SENECA, ON TRANQUILITY OF MIND, 17.5
Learning about stoicism and putting it into practice requires a lot of patience. It can be a real mental workout, and to be honest it is exhausting at times. That’s why I love today’s message in The Daily Stoic, and what better day to remind us than Christmas Day: we must remember to take a break sometimes.
Hard work is good. Intense focus is beneficial. But all things in moderation, right? If you just keep going and going without ever stopping, it brings diminished returns. Your mind starts to experience “a certain kind of dullness” as Seneca says above, and that’s not going to be beneficial for you.
We have to give our mind a rest sometimes, and it will come back stronger and refreshed, with new vigor and excitement. Surely you’ve noticed how much fresher and more creative you feel after getting an excellent (and long) night’s rest? Just going all-out forever isn’t going to bring the results you’re looking for — you have to give your brain some time off occasionally, and it’ll pay dividends for you. Sometimes you just have to chillax like a Roman.
I’m going to confess something. Yes I write a new post on this site every single day. But recently I needed a vacation — I needed to take a break. So I wrote a few of the daily posts in advance, and scheduled them to post later, on the appropriate day.
And then I went on vacation, and it was glorious. I relaxed my mind, and while I still reminded myself to live my life according to what I’ve learned, I didn’t introduce any new Stoic principles or philosophical ideas. And the time off was tremendous, and my brain feels fresh and new! I encourage you to try it too 🙂