What is an integration break? (And why you should take one)

March 22, 2024
April 20, 2023

Why do we need integration breaks?

As Dr. Timothy Wilson shared in Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious, there are 11 million pieces of information vying for your attention right now. And you know how much of this information your brain can process? About 40 pieces.

The impact of this statement ripples into many aspects of our lives, including our approach to self-care and personal development.

To quote the Inner Workout book, “There’s no shortage of self-care advice and information. But finding people who actually feel well cared for? That’s a struggle.”

If we’re not intentional, we’ll gather knowledge from books and podcasts, get dopamine hits from liking a post, and share Stories to craft a persona of someone who is doing the inner work—all without applying those insights to our life.

Integration breaks bridge the gap between knowing about inner work and embodying inner work.

So, what is an integration break™?

An integration break is an intentional pause from the cycle of constant consumption for the purpose of rest, application, reflection, and deepened connection to your inner wisdom.

We've shifted the Inner Warmup podcast to a seasonal format to allow for integration breaks, both for the listener and for the team.

It can feel like the only way to get to what’s next is to do more. Listen to more podcasts. Read more books. Attend more workshops. Explore more modalities. In reality, some of our most meaningful progress happens when we embody and apply what we’ve learned.

Integration breaks vary in length. Yours might be as short as a day or a weekend. They could last as long as a quarter or a full year, depending on your needs.

How do I know if I need an integration break?

At Inner Workout, we define self-care as listening within and responding in the most loving way possible. It might be time for an integration break if you’re struggling with either side of the self-care equation.

An integration break might be in order if…

  • You’re searching for a magic bullet. You’re struggling to connect the dots between where you are and where you want to be, so you’re looking for something to connect the dots for you. You keep pulling cards, scrolling, researching, and pressing play in hopes of stumbling upon the elusive Answer.
  • When your inner voice is getting drowned out by the noise. A perpetual learner, you nerd out on all things self-care and personal development. But somewhere in all that learning, you learned to value everyone else’s frameworks and insights over your own wisdom. Your learning journey is leading you away from yourself instead of drawing you closer.  
  •  When you’re talking the talk but not walking the walk. If there was a self-help SAT, you’d score a 1600. You talk a big game, but, if you’re honest, there’s a sizeable gap between the Stories you share and your daily actions. The cycle of consumption—and sharing what you’ve consumed—moves so quickly that you rarely sit with your learnings.

If you're not seeing yourself in those bullet points, you may not need an integration break because you already are regularly integrating. Celebrate yourself! Most folks don't have a steady cycle of consumption, application, and integration.

We built integration into the Inner Workout app so everyone can integrate with ease. It gives you the tools to journal, meditate, or breathe using the time you have. And, even when you're learning through our mini-courses, called Journeys, you're immediately reflecting and applying your insights.

Integration breaks don't need to be as frequent when integration is already a part of your day-to-day.

Five approaches to integration breaks

The biggest goal of an integration break is to bring you closer to yourself, so no two integration breaks will look exactly alike. You might center an entire integration break around a single approach or mix-and-match.

1. Rest. Take a break from all the doing and consuming. Focus on being instead.

Useful when: You can’t remember the last time you took a break. You’ve achieved a milestone you’ve been working towards. You feel yourself headed towards burnout.

2. Take inventory. Review your notes. Click through your bookmarks and saves. Catalogue and categorize. You might find what you need most buried in the information you already have.

Useful when: You’re intentional about your consumption, but you’re still struggling to turn it into action. You keep saving things for someday. You know you’ve learned a lot. You just can’t quite remember what all you’ve learned.

3. Limit consumption. This might sound blasphemous to lifelong learners, but you may need to stop reading, listening, and scrolling for a bit. In my own life, this might look like limiting business podcasts. For you, it might mean putting a moratorium on self-help books or limiting how much time you spend on social. You can lock yourself out of the apps where you're over-consuming using the the Inner Workout app's Lock sessions.

Useful when: You’re feeling creatively blocked. You’re experiencing a lot of envy. You feel overwhelmed with a lot of information and aren’t sure where to start.

4. Apply your learnings. I no longer identify as a Christian, but this Bible verse still rings true. “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” Knowing a breathing technique helps with your anxiety isn’t the same as doing the practice. Taking the Building Your Inner Compass Journey in the Inner Workout app isn’t the same as using your inner compass to guide your decisions. Make the shift from theoretical to practical and watch it pay dividends in your own life.

Useful when: You’ve attended several workshops or trainings. You’ve said, “Oh, I should start doing that.” You’ve got at least one dog-eared book with notes in the margin.

5. Reflect. Take what serves you. Leave the rest. I love when practitioners share that reminder, but when’s the last time you considered what to keep and what needs to be let go? Reflection is an opportunity to hear from your inner wisdom as you consider what is and isn’t working.

Useful when: Your inner voice feels muted. You’ve been exposed to a lot of new ideas. You’re ready to alchemize knowledge into wisdom.

Final thoughts

As the saying goes, “Nothing in nature blooms all year.” Rather than recreate structures of depletion and exploitation in our inner work, let’s follow nature’s example. There are seasons for integrating. Seasons for growth. Seasons for holding on. Seasons for letting go. When we create space for integration, we acknowledge the truth that humans are a part of nature. We embody a way of being that feels novel in the modern world, but in reality, we’re returning to our roots.

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