Photo by Adrian Swancar on Unsplash

My left arm had a dull but persistent ache. My chest felt anxious.

It was one a.m., and I was still awake.

I had had a similar experience before, when I had my first panic attack. To say the least, the thought of that memory was making me panic more.

What’s worse was my mind telling me that I was going to die.

Alas! The perils of the stressed.

Thankfully, somehow and I don’t know how, I finally fell asleep. I woke up with the same sensations but a little milder. And, of course, the thought of impending doom was still hanging around my neck like an albatross.

I tried to reason with myself.

“I am feeling better than I was last night.”

“I am alive.”

“Let’s just get on with the day, and we’ll forget all about it.”

I tried getting on with the day reading my current read. But I couldn’t concentrate one bit. The words on the page flew right over my head. I was still in my uneasiness, and I knew the more I stayed there, the more anxious I’ll become.

“You need to get yourself busy,” said the voice inside my head.

Let me tell you what happened next. It didn’t do any work. No matter how much I tried to get down to tackling the day’s word count, I simply wasn’t present.

Have you ever watched Tom and Jerry? Do you remember a scene where Tom is trying to keep his eyes open by taping them open? That’s how I was feeling. I indeed needed a nap.

“A nap!?” the voice spoke again, “It’s just 10:30 in the morning. You’ve just started your day. It’s a Monday, that too the first weekday of the month. And you want to start your new day, a new week and a new month with a nap? Seriously!?”

That made me try to get back to work. It lasted 5 minutes.

“Nope,” I told the voice, “This is not working. I NEED the nap. I’ll get to work after lunch.”

That nap was a lifesaver. I was so sleepy that I dozed off right away and woke up 3 hours later feeling way better than I was in the morning.

Photo by Paul Hanaoka on Unsplash

Post-lunch, I sat in the living room with my mother.

It’s our ritual to watch an episode of something or a few minutes of some movie after lunch.

Today, I found The Matrix, starring Keanu Reeves. It was the final 30 minutes — Neo and Trinity on their way to save Morpheus, the face-off with Agent Smith, and Neo finally owning that he’s The One. It’s one of my favourite movies, so I continued watching it. I became so invested in it (a movie I have seen a million times) that I forgot all about my anxiety.

But guess what? When The Matrix finished, another favourite movie of mine started. The Mummy, starring Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz. So I stayed.

While I was watching the movie, the voice wasn’t quiet.

“You know, you’re wasting your time. We had so much planned for today. We had that essay to complete, and that email to send. Also, you have to continue with your novel’s first draft; you need to know where the characters are going next. And, yes, you have to exercise.”

I didn’t bother replying to the voice. I was happy and calm where I was — right in front of the TV — watching Imhotep suck the life out of those three Americans who thought the curse doesn’t apply to them.

Once that was over, on a different channel, the last 20 minutes of Baby’s Day Out was airing. The under-construction building, the home for retired soldiers, and Baby Bink and company going back to the tick-tock to get his boo-boo.

This time the voice went crazy.

“Are you kidding me? You know you have already wasted THE WHOLE DAY napping and watching TV. You know these movies are available on OTT. You could have watched them later there when you’re free to do so. But no! You waste your time just because you were feeling a little uneasy. Well, grow up! Everyone feels uneasy every now and then, but they don’t think they’re going to die. They get to work. No wonder you haven’t achieved anything yet. You’re such a failure!”

The old me would have reacted to what the voice just said. I still do sometimes. But not today.

If the nap was a lifesaver, watching my favourite movies was my comforting hot cocoa. I finally felt safe. I calmed down. I know I’d still die one day, but at that moment, that thought didn’t bother me anymore.

So what did the new me say to the voice?

Well, nothing.

I didn’t need to justify anything to it. Instead, I came to my room, turned on the computer, and started typing the essay you are reading right now.

Photo by Nick Morrison on Unsplash

If I had listened to the voice when it was stopping me from taking a nap, I would have been unkind to myself. It would have been like etching tiny blade cuts on my soul. That is what we do when we don’t listen to our bodies. It’s the opposite of self-care and self-love.

If I had important work that needed to be dealt with, I would have definitely worked on that as much as I could. Or delegate it. Or postponed it, if possible. But since nothing significant was required of me, it was acceptable to take a day off. Even if it was the first day of the week and the first weekday of the month.

Our body, mind, and soul don’t work according to the man-made logic of time. If it needs a break, it needs a break. We can’t argue with that and ask it to come back on the weekend. But this is something that we can’t wrap our heads around. Taking a break feels like a sin. We have become a generation that feels guilty if we take a break.

Please don’t torture yourself. Taking a break doesn’t make you less productive or, what the voice in my head said, a failure.

What’s the use of grinding yourself, to one day live a life worth living, when all that’s left of you is fine powder?