How do you know when it's time to take a break from the outside world? When is enough enough?
“If you want to find the trail, if you want to find yourself, you must explore your dreams alone. You must grow at a slow pace in a dark cocoon of loneliness so you can fly like wind, like wings, when you awaken.”
― Francesca Lia Block, Dangerous Angels
1. Your body is showing signs of stress:
You find your muscles constantly clenched. Perhaps you're also grinding your teeth at night. Your immunity is plummeting and you find yourself getting sick too often. Your digestion maybe showing irregularity and you can't seem to get some sleep. The signs of stress can be quite hard to distinguish from the everyday experience and can come in many different forms. The only way to diminish this stress is to practice relaxation or to get down to the bottom of the cause of your worries. And if it's people who are bugging you, then you may need some time off. Always see your doctor if symptoms persist. Long term stress can take a toll on your personal health and body development.
2. Your to-do list is too long:
If you've got a to-do list somewhere, it's definitely not done. People around you are tugging at you in so many directions that you've put their concerns and needs at a priority before yourself. Sometimes, it's okay to make loved ones a priority, especially family. However, if you find that you are constantly being pushed away from your goals, then perhaps it's time to get back to that list. Make sure to number them according to importance and to start from the most to least significance and priority.
3. People around you are distracting you from Allah:
This is the most important sign. Do you find yourself in tranquility and in peace while alone in worship but distracted and out of place when people are around? Do you find yourself remembering Allah in these times but forgetting to pray- for example - when people are occupying your time? Although companionship is nice, it rarely happens without guiding us away from our true purpose. Sometimes through things like gossip, shopping or other means that do no benefit or harm and are just a true waste of time, let's be honest with ourselves. Maybe it's time to invest our time in quality friendships for the sake of Allah and perhaps minimizing our time with those who lead us away from His remembrance is the first step. When we can reach a point in our lives where our inner and outer state are compatible, then we've got a good grip on our self-concept and the company of others will not be likely to sway us from our core values and standards. That is the first sign of becoming an individual with independent beliefs and the stepping stone to becoming a leader and not a follower. Some time off will help you get closer to this vision.
4. What others think of you is constantly on your mind:
Are the opinions and values of others rubbing off on you? Do you find yourself occupying your thinking space with what people think of you even when you're alone? In order to find ourselves, we need to come to the realization that the opinions of others is not everything the world has to offer. The opinions of others is only a tiny fraction of what happens when we do things. When we act, there are reactions - negative or positive - that form what we would oftentimes consider gossip or rumors. When you're an individual with agency and a sense of purpose tied to Allah (swt), the opinions of others should have no influence on your actions and should carry no meaning within itself. If it's positive, it is for the sake of Allah and we don't dwell on it to feed our egos and if it's negative, you will receive a reward to compensate for what is said about you, whether it is in your knowledge or not. So when Allah (swt) makes handling people easier for you, in the name of what and whom are you burdening yourself further by dwelling on the opinions of others about you? On the contrary, you may drive yourself crazy.
5. You can't remember the last time you did something for yourself:
People seem to be such an important priority that it becomes difficult at times to distinguish what they desire for yourself than what you desire for yourself. Taking a break from the influence and pressures of people around you will reveal to you what you truly find significant versus what others want for you. For some of us, it will be easy to find those things when the influence of people is taken away from them, while for others, it will be surprising to find a blank canvas. But the good news is, you have a fresh start to begin exploring what you find interesting. It is never selfish to dedicate some time to yourself. If there is no compromise of regular duties, the time off will refresh your train of thought, give you new perspective and replenish your creative energy stores. You will then be able to serve society and those around you better. So, in the end, everyone wins. Keep in mind, for those who argue that giving to others is like giving to themselves, that is an understandable point; yet it should not distract from your time alone and your service to yourself.
6. You're suppressing your emotions:
Are you so busy accommodating for the feelings of others to think about your own? These bottled up emotions are firstly, taking a toll on your health and secondly, playing a major hidden role in your life you're not even aware of. When we have bottled emotions, we use displacement to let out our feelings and act in ways that we would not act otherwise. We may also lose sight from what we have and we lose sight of the beautiful in the present moment. Life then becomes dull and we wonder how we lost our luster. Don't be afraid to let these emotions take form. And console Allah, He is always here. To acknowledge this puts you in a more satisfied position with regards to your feelings. Since whether you're conscious of it or not, what you share with yourself, you also share with Him.
7. You're always looking at a screen:
Are you training your creativity at least once a day? Or are you feeding on the product of other's creativity and artistic vision? Almost everything that can be done from a screen, from television to videos, articles and music are the presentation of the hard work of other folk - people with passion and open-ended vision. Where did your vision go?
8. You don't have a hobby or passion:
Take all that occupies your head at the moment; put your work on one side for a second, then your prospective visions of the future, then your family, friends and the people around you, what are you left with? What makes you you besides these things? Have you taken up a passion and hobby? Chances are, the demands of others around you are holding you back from exploring this area of your life and God forbid, could also be holding you back from remembering Allah.
9. You can't make decisions alone:
As soon as you are confronted with a problem, who do you turn to? Is your life sprinkled across many individuals? Do you call up friends for hours to get their opinions? Is your family a bigger deciding factor than your own will? Maybe it's time to take some time away and to practice making decisions alone. Once you've developed your own self-concept it will become quite easy to do so and you will only need advice and help on a few minor things here and there. But if you're not there yet, the first step is to lay out some ground work and basis for your decisions. And you probably know what I'm going to say next; the ground work is always Allah's word and the sunnah of the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). So educate yourself steadily in Islam on the topics that are of concern to you and also learn from the sahaba on how they handled situations. You're almost never going through purely novel circumstances. There are others we can learn from with the Islamic background who can guide us.
10. You're not happy:
Let's face it, you've read this far means there must be something missing in your life. Perhaps you're not happy at the moment. Check your present state. If you're not happy with the way life is now, it is definitely time to take a break from people for a bit.
Okay, this is great and all. I need to be away. But what do I do once I am?
Here's a few suggestions:
- Look back on good memories
- Read a book
- Talk to a young or elderly persons
- Learn to meditate
- Organize your life
- Renew and revamp some things around you
- Explore your artistic side
- Pamper yourself
- Rediscover nature
- Embrace silence
- Do that thing on your list you've always wanted to do
- Break your daily routine
- Eat foods that are good for your soul
- Laugh spontaneously
- Sing out loud to yourself
- Do something embarrassing and laugh about it
- Be your true silly self
- Dance freestyle