During the long months of the pandemic, did you notice work taking over every part of your schedule, squeezing out play? Disruptions in jobs, schooling, and the simple fact that most recreation was off-limits conspired to fill our days with responsibilities.

Have you been able to shift back to a more balanced rhythm? Are you paying attention to the signs that you need to take a break from work? (You work, whether you’re paid for it or not.) Often, those signs are in your body, such as fatigue or tension. Whatever the nature of your work, whatever season of life you’re in, you need time off to rest and play. Are you taking it?

Your inner family includes a dedicated team of managers.

Our inner family includes a team of managers committed to productivity. There’s a strong, unavoidable, cultural message about the value of productivity, and your managers are attuned to it. They want you to stay busy for as many hours of the day as possible. They keep task lists, focus on your schedule, and push back when parts of you start fantasizing about having some fun. Managers tend to dismiss signals from your body that it’s time to rest or relax.

About a year ago, I completed radiation treatment for breast cancer. When I met with the radiation oncologist, she said, “You probably won’t feel much, if any, fatigue.” What did my managers hear? I wasn’t allowed to feel tired. I could continue seeing clients and working on my book, and I wouldn’t need to take a break. And I didn’t. To celebrate the end of treatment, we went for a hike through mountain meadows choked with wildflowers, including wild lilies and orchids. I was elated when I reached the peak. This photo is of the person my managers want you to see: the woman who does it all and still has energy for a hike, the one who gets an A+! (My managers love to get good grades.)

If your managers are in control, you will hit a wall.

A couple of weeks later, I was back on a different trail. I’d done this hike a few times before, and it never occurred to me that it would be different this time. Only a few minutes into the hike, I was having a tough time catching my breath. I started feeling dizzy and was lagging behind the group. I plodded along, sitting down a few times before reaching the peak, wondering what the heck was wrong with me. It was humbling.

It turns out the rosy prognosis about the impact of radiation was a bit optimistic. Or, maybe the doctor assumed I would ease up on my work schedule and opt for less physically demanding ways to play?

Managers are fear-driven.

Your managers are afraid if you stop working so hard, something terrible will happen. You will let someone down, miss a deadline, seem weak, or fail to meet some standard for productivity. They need your leadership. They’ve been trying to run things on their own. They have many valuable qualities, but they are not supposed to be in charge. You are the leader of your inner family, and when you connect with them and reassure them that you won’t abandon your responsibilities they relax. They will be relieved when you remind them that there is more to life than work because they, too, need a break!

When your managers calm down, ideas for fun will bubble up. What playful, creative, or relaxing activity will you choose?