I took my first algebra class in 7th grade. I had felt pretty smart in my schooling up to that point, and had always excelled at math. But for some reason, the new language of numbers and symbols together really threw me. I was attentive in class, took notes, and genuinely tried to learn the new concept, but it wouldn’t take hold in my mind. It didn’t help that I was somewhat timid at that age, and refrained from asking questions in class. One particularly challenging day at home with my math assignment, I became so frustrated that I picked up my book and threw it across the room as hard as I could. I left my room in tears and went to the kitchen for some water, a snack, and a much-needed break. About twenty minutes later, I returned to my book (luckily it was still intact) with its accompanying assignment (I think it was still wet with tears), and something completely magical happened – it clicked! I understood the formula, it all made sense, and I got the assignment finished! My memory is just a little hazy, but I’m pretty sure there was a chorus of angels singing Hallelujah! in the background. Either way, from that moment on, math became my favorite subject.
“Your calm mind is the ultimate weapon against your challenges. So relax.” Bryant McGill
With a new school year upon us, now is the perfect time to evaluate how we spend our time learning, working, studying, and productively resting. There is so much to do in a day, and with the modern addition of social media and smart phones to our already busy lives, it is essential to balance these activities with downtime. I recently read a self-improvement book that said one should even take breaks from reading. I had a hard time with that one until I acknowledged that I easily get lost in a good book for days at a time.
Many things demand our attention, some important, some not. If you are trying hard to learn something new, work at it for a while then step away -- maybe take a short walk. If you find yourself troubled or discouraged, it might be a great time to stop watching the news or spending time on Facebook (or both) for a week (or forever). If you are in the middle of planning a wedding and you want to cry, go cry and then get out a puzzle. And have some ice cream.
My 7th grade experience taught me something more important than algebra – it taught me the value and importance of taking a break. That lesson has stayed with me, and as an adult I am glad to say that I work hard, but I also allow myself to walk away from things for a temporary time-out. I’m able to stay productive, and my brain gets the chance to relax and rejuvenate. Plus, it’s really great for everyone around me because I don’t throw things. Which occurs to me, I’ve been working really hard at this article – I think I’ll go take a break. But you’ve been reading – you’ve had your break. You should probably get back to work.