If you have read my article Golf is Not a Linear Game, you will have seen what my schedule looked like when I was trying to dig myself out of a pretty deep hole. It was nothing but golf and school all day, every day. Sometimes, this is necessary. For most of us, however, it is more important to build time into our schedules to relax and decompress, to take stock of our lives.
In that time when I was really struggling, I had not yet taken the time to truly get to know myself. I thought the only way to hit pay dirt was to dig it out of the ground. Hard work, in my mind, was the only solution to my struggles. In a way, I was right. In a separate but related way, I threw my life and my mind so out of balance that I became a completely different person for a while.
When the mind and body don’t have time to rest, they become very good at conserving energy. Unfortunately, this saving of energy mimics very closely the fight or flight response we developed over thousands of years of evolution. What this means is when you don’t take a break, you are tricking your body into thinking it needs to be in a constant state of fight or flight, and you will become continually more and more on edge until something breaks down.
It takes a long time of never resting to build up to this. But being a workaholic is a habit that forms fairly quickly. Looking back, all of the people who sarcastically mentioned they were surprised I only practiced for 7 hours a day were actually trying in their own way to tell me to slow down. They were trying to warn me that I was on a dangerous path.
In my own journey, the stress that built up had some intense consequences. For a time, I literally forgot how to socialize. When I didn’t slow down, my body started to give me signs that I was working too hard in the form of injuries, aches, and pain. When I decided to take ibuprofen and power through that pain, it was my mind and spirit that began to resist in the form of anxiety.
Thankfully, I am lucky enough to have people in my life who are not afraid to be real with me. People who forced me to talk to them about what I was going through, and then helped me to understand the best ways to start to heal. One of my friends would actually check in with me a few times every week to see if I had taken a day off yet that week.
I began to firmly commit to taking at least one day off every week starting in the spring of 2019. Typically, I take the first day after a golf tournament, and if I am not playing in a tournament on a given week I’ll take Saturday. I was amazed how much I could get done in a day when I didn’t go to practice. Here is a general view of what my day off looks like:
- Sleep in (around 8:30 AM)
- Clean apartment while laundry is in the machine
- Fold laundry, do homework
- Do more homework
- If I’m tired, take a nap
- Play video games, read, go to the gym, other things I normally don’t have time to do
- Spend time with friends and teammates
One of the most important things I’ve found about taking days off is that I still need to be doing things. If I don’t give myself ways to occupy my mind, I start to think about golf, and then I don’t feel like I’ve taken a day off at all
When I have a day where I don’t think about golf from the time I wake up to the time I go to sleep, I feel indescribably better the next morning. I give myself a chance to clean up my life, catch up on work, and spend time with the people closest to me, and I begin to miss golf by the end of it. Sometimes when we don’t take breaks, we can begin to reject the very thing we love. By giving our mind a chance to reset, we also give it a chance to remember why we fell in love with golf, or running, or whatever else our passion might be.
You will know when you feel burnt out. When that happens, please don’t be afraid to take some time off. Our bodies and minds were not engineered to be all “go” all the time. Slow down, take a nap, go for a hike, do something to give yourself a rest. You won’t regret it for a second.