Soli Deo Gloria

Deliberate Breaks

Photo Creds: Clement Falize

Being in the final semester of my undergraduate degree, I have never felt the intensity and duration of exhaustion as I have felt of all my university life. Each semester, the competition becomes stiffer and stiffer as the cohort becomes more intelligent and hardworking as the university fails more and more people in every subject you take. Expectations become higher, where you have no other option but to carry on. During high school, I held the belief that with hard work and a laser dedication towards work ethic, I could do anything. Now I realise that though this statement may be true, but at what cost? Costs such as friendships, sanity, physical, and mental health. In speculation of these costs, is it really worth it?

It has been almost two months of taking a break from blogging, with the last post being on August the 8th. During this period, the hectic bustling of life inundated my existence – where I missed the 1st anniversary of this blog, on August 23rd. In this incessant struggle of working, I pushed on for these last two months. I could keep pushing, I thought to myself, as it is the final semester of my degree. In reality, one can only push so far until hitting the wall of burnout. I soon realised that not only there was a limitation of time in doing my work, but also a limitation of energy. During this time, I realised that without doing the things I loved – such as writing on the blog, and enjoying a good book, each day felt like a repeat of the previous. Day in and day out. On some days, I felt didn’t have the time to reflect and potentially write something, other times being too exhausted to reflect and write anything. Where if I did try to write something, I would be fighting a wearied body, a fried brain, and a battered emotional state.  

This is where my previous post of “Reflecting for a Marinated Life” will come to haunt and bite me again. Once again, the lesson of learning how to take deliberate breaks needs to be reminded and learnt.

In the exhaustion of life, it is so easy to be doom scrolling on social media to no end, consuming YouTube video after YouTube video – just ‘vegetating’ as it were. This notion is infamously known as procrastination. For a simple definition, procrastination is avoiding the task at hand, and doing something that we don’t want to do, in this example being doom-scrolling and binging YouTube videos. A much more effective way of taking a break is to take deliberate breaks. If we are going to procrastinate anyway, might as well procrastinate in the best way possible. Whether that be having a wholesome conversation with a friend, walking or jogging in the park, reading a book, or simply just doing nothing – where being present in the moment may be more effective than all of these, as doing nothing is by definition of what taking a break is.

You may have heard of the famous adage of the aeroplane oxygen mask. Whenever we board a plane (though it may have been a while due to the COVID-19 situation), a routine safety drill is broadcasted throughout the entire passenger cabin. A common refrain being announced is this: “in the event of a cabin pressure emergency, put on your oxygen mask before putting on the oxygen masks of others”. In this situation, this is quite intuitive. If one has a baby to take care of, you should put your own mask first before the baby’s because if you were to put the baby’s mask first, then you may pass out from lack of oxygen before putting your own. Perfect sense. However when in life, this principle of the oxygen mask is easily forgotten, which leads to disastrous consequences.

In our burn-out hustle culture, we seek to strive to achieve new standards and be better versions of ourselves. In and of itself, it is a great thing to seek life-long improvement. On the downside, life-long learning can lead to life-long stress if not carefully mitigated, which leads to life-long implications for our physical and mental well-being. In other words, the life-long asphyxiation of not putting on an oxygen mask. This is why breaks between short bursts of hard work are deserved and even necessary because it is only when we are in our best state – being rested, relaxed, and oxygenated can we best tackle the day and potentially help someone along the way too.

Sweet is the sleep of a laborer, whether he eats little or much, but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep.

Ecclesiastes 5:12 ESV

The last two months have been a powerful reminder of knowing my limitations. On every occasion, it is often not worth it to sacrifice our physical and mental well-being for a slightly higher mark on an exam, test or assignment. Moreover, by sacrificing one’s physical and mental well-being, we are not in the best state to tackle this assessment, which jeopardises not only the assessment, but outside the assessment. Our family, friends, the very nature of our existence. That breaks should not only be taken, but taken deliberately – being spent doing the things that provide the most refreshment to the body, mind, and soul.

Unless the Lord builds the house,
    those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
    the watchman stays awake in vain.

It is in vain that you rise up early
    and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
    for he gives to his beloved sleep.

Psalm 127:1-2 ESV


Thinking on your Feet


Picking Oneself Up


  1. Hope you’re in a better place, Bryan! Cheering you on!

    • Thank you so much Eric for still following despite the lack of posting :)) Will try to be more consistent from here!

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