A much-needed mental break

Published 12:00 pm Sunday, November 20, 2022

I have a great love of reading, and of writing. But as I worked on my master’s degree many years ago, I kept one Bible verse printed out and hanging on the wall of my office — Ecclesiastes 12:12.

In the Christians Standard Bible version, it reads, “… my son, be warned: There is no end to the making of many books, and much study wearies the body.”

No doubt. There’s nothing wrong with reading or making or studying books, as long as one gets enough rest. It can certainly be tiring.

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I repeatedly had to slow down, take breaks and remind myself that my first priority was not to finish my degree and graduate, but to do the best I could while keeping God and my family as my top two priorities, in that order. I am sad to confess that I did not always do so.

I have never really liked taking breaks from working if I’m “in a groove” and getting things accomplished. I will almost always eat lunch at my desk, while continuing to read, research or write for my job. I recall one of my former bosses telling me he was going to have to fire me if I didn’t start taking breaks away from the office — I needed the mental break, even if not the physical one.

I asked him if he would really fire me and he said, “No,” but he would harass me relentlessly instead.

One of my sons called me recently and told me he was a bit frustrated because he was stuck in the office for a couple of days, rather than running place-to-place, staying busy at his audio-visual tech job. But he was also grateful for the temporary change, because he was getting a “much-needed” mental break.

One of daughters called me the day before that, and said she did not have to go to any of her masters-level classes that week because all of her professors were involved in an out-of-town conference. She was very glad, because she said it had given her a “much-needed mental break.”

I found it very interesting that they both used similar wording. We all need mental breaks, no matter what our jobs or daily tasks may be. Sometimes we just need to shut off, or at least do something different. My wife works with numbers all day, so she enjoys taking brief breaks to play a word game or read something short. I work with words all day, so I enjoy taking brief breaks to play Sudoku or a numbers logic game.

My favorite breaks come when one of my children calls me. I’ve told them each many times that I will always take time to talk with them, even if I’m busy. If for some reason I cannot talk right at that moment, I’ll explain why and call them back as soon as possible. If it’s any emergency, it doesn’t matter what else I have going on. Because no matter what, my family is a higher priority than my job. It would be wrong to have it any other way.

I enjoy my work. It’s like any job — it has it’s pros and cons. But the same author who cautioned against wearing yourself out studying also wrote, “There is nothing better for a person than to eat, drink, and enjoy his work. I have seen that even this is from God’s hand, because who can eat and who can enjoy life apart from him?” (Eccl. 2:24-25) and, “I have seen that there is nothing better than for a person to enjoy his activities because that is his reward” (Eccl. 3:22a).

But life is more than work and taking breaks from it. And it’s more than family, too. The book of Ecclesiastes ends with the most important reminder: “When all has been heard, the conclusion of the matter is this: fear God and keep his commands, because this is for all humanity. For God will bring every act to judgment, including every hidden thing, whether good or evil” (Ec. 12:13-14).


Brett Campbell can be reached at brett.campbell@dailyleader.com.