You Need A Break

Nora Zelevansky
3 min readOct 25, 2022

Why playing hooky can lead to more productivity and happiness

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

Yesterday, I took a break.

I’m not talking about glancing purposefully away from my laptop screen for a few minutes periodically, which I am terrible about doing despite my eye doctor’s pleas. (I am always disappointing that woman.)

I’m also not talking about standing up, stretching and moving my body for a few minutes, what my husband insists on referring to as “exercise snacks” because of some New York Times article he read during the pandemic. (Thanks a lot, guys.)

I’m not talking about crossing to my couch, lying down and taking a power nap, which I also would never do.

I’m not even talking about pausing to meditate or take a mindful walk to process and think about my life. That has its time and place, but sometimes even that sounds like work!

Nope. I’m talking about an honest to goodness break. I’m talking about blowing off work to go see Bros and eat tater tots by the myself in the middle of a Monday afternoon.

As a freelance writer who isn’t always in control of the ebb and flow of my workload, this has long been my move. Pre-kids, when I lived in LA, on days when things were so slow that I wondered if my email was broken (that’s a thing!), I would often wander over to The Grove movie theater for a midday rom-com. (The secret about midday solo movies is that they definitely don’t need to be good to do the job.)

The experience felt almost mystical to me, not only in that it helped me escape my addled brain for a couple of hours, but also because I often emerged to find that email in my inbox that I’d been waiting to receive. It was like it unlocked — or unblocked — something in my universe.

As it turns out, the benefits of playing hooky are not just anecdotal. Publications from Psychology Today to Architectural Digest (who knew?) have expounded on the benefits of breaks for balancing mental health and bolstering inspiration and imagination. According to multiple studies, taking breaks can help us avoid burnout, improve our moods and keep creative juices flowing.

According to me, it can also magically make emails appear.

Nora Zelevansky

New novel: COMPETITIVE GRIEVING (Blackstone). New nonfiction: ROLL RED ROLL (Hachette ). Bylines: NY Times, T&C, WSJ etc.