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On the first of May Germany celebrates International Workers’ Day, funnily enough by staying home and not working at all. But the much nicer tradition the busy German worker bees observe is “Der Tanz in den Mai” (The Dance into May).

On the eve of May first there are parties everywhere and people dance around bonfires, drink copious amounts of alcohol and welcome the warmer time of year back into the world. This pagan festival is also where the raising and dancing around the maypole comes from. There is also another lovely tradition which allows young virile men to vandalize the woods and neighbourhood gardens, by digging up small birch trees and then planting them outside the window of their beloved.

As this week has been quite busy for me and although I stayed at home on said day it was to work and not play, a proper labour day. And every time I look out my window no lovely little birch-tree reminds me that I am loved, not even a branch telling me I’m liked. Sadly playing has to wait for a while, I even had to move my flight to Hamburg from yesterday to Saturday morning, and work is the what I have to do from morn till night. But as I sit at my desk and pretend to be a grown-up I can’t help my mind from straying and wanting to bunk off.

We all know that it is important to take a break from work and recharge our batteries, but few of us really understand why. The brain is a muscle and like any muscle it needs to work out (think/stress) to get stronger but it also needs rest to be able to grow (sleep/breaks). An interesting study even shows that a brain that is put under periods of stress with adequate times of rest in between seems to be better at fighting off dementia, epilepsy and migraines.

But what is adequate rest? The right amount of sleep is really important, however a vacation for more than a week helps the brain forget about the daily stress and relax even better. But a good distraction like an engaging book, an entertaining film or a challenging hobby can give our brains the rest we need to be able to let our minds deal with work. Even as little as five minutes away from the desk, doing something completely different, helps the brain refocus and see new ways of doing things, mini-vacations to de-stress if you will. That is why those daily coffee-breaks are so all important, not just for all the smokers out there but for everyone.

As I am under time-pressure and my deadline is looming I can’t afford to kick-back and take time to sit and read for hours and escape into the fictional world of books, or flit down to the cinema and watch a film and flying off to Germany is more of a family visit than a much needed Holiday. Even my sleep time has been reduced down to the maximum minimum. But I do litter my day with spontaneous breaks in which I dance to music in my living room, read a short magazine article while drinking a cup of tea or make a quick moany phone-call to a friend to vent.

So back to work I go, hi-ho, and play will have to wait for another day, or at least till my desire for tea drives me to the kettle or a good song on the CD makes it impossible for my feet to stay still.

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