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The Importance of the Brain Vacation

So yesterday, I bought a fish tank. I probably should not have, because it ate up all my free time yesterday, and it was expensive, and it’s going to take regular maintenance until I decide I no longer want fish. It was silly, and unnecessary, and maybe a little weird, and it doesn’t even have fish in it yet, but I love it.

My fish tank is a good example of what I like to call a brain vacation. As a musician, my life revolves about 98%  of the time around music. For the most part, that’s awesome! I love music! And yet.

Did you know, if you spend literally all your time doing something, you will begin to hate it?

It’s true. I spent a good chunk of this summer just not doing anything. I did nothing. And while for the first like two and a half months it was great, by the end I was definitely beginning to go a little stir-crazy. It was like a little irritating rub that turned into a blister of “I haven’t done anything but this in 75 days I am SO BORED.” Now combine that idea of a constant irritation – the process of doing something constantly so that you never get any relief, a blister of irritation and boredom – with the constant high-level stress of being in college. That’s a really, really good recipe for a meltdown, for a burnout, or even just for a weekend of making really really bad, not-fun decisions.

This is where brain vacations come in. A brain vacation is anything that you enjoy doing that is just completely unrelated to your primary Thing. Music is my primary thing. My fish tank is about as unrelated to opera as you can get. The thirteen plants in my room that I fuss over way too much? Unrelated to music. They are something that I can do that help me to remember that I am not a music robot. They are my brain vacation.

The best thing about brain vacation things is that they are really good for giving you a distraction, essentially. Tumblr is not a brain vacation for me, because 90% of the people I follow are also college students or musicians – super related to my Thing! That’s not relaxing, even if it is entertaining. But learning how to kick-start the nitrogen cycle in my fish tank? That’s unrelated, and kinda neat! I went on a research binge, y’all, I know so much about fish tanks now. And that’s what I needed yesterday. I needed to Not be Doing the Thing.

So don’t feel guilty if you have a brain vacation day. Spending some time completely absorbed in something “irrelevant” to whatever your Thing is, that’s necessary. It’s not shameful. It taking care of yourself and giving your mental stress blisters time to heal. So go take some time to go on a vacation, you’ll probably feel better.

(I would not recommend fish tanks though, tbh – they are really are Unfortunately Expensive.)

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