For many of us millennials, being overworked, underpaid, stressed out, and depressed is, unfortunately, the norm. We're expected to be on call at every hour because of the ubiquity of smartphones, and we're afraid to take vacation lest someone younger, better, and faster swoops in to steal our jobs. So what to do? Surprisingly, the best bit of advice might just come from a silly, old bear. Disney's live-action Winnie the Pooh adaptation Christopher Robin isn't just a nostalgic trip back into the woods to play with beloved stuffed animals, like it might seen. The movie actually offers a surprising message of self-care, and it's one that all of us should take to heart.
In the new film, now playing, Ewan McGregor stars as Christopher Robin, all grown up and a serious businessman with serious business to attend to. He's a far cry from the little boy who romped through the woods with animal friends who may or may not have been make believe, but putting aside relaxation and fun is necessary to be an adult, or so we're told. Only kids can get away with being idle; in fact, the earliest moments of the movie find a young Christopher with Pooh and the gang — Eeyore, Tigger, Piglet, Kanga and Roo, Owl, and Rabbit — playing and simply being children. Before he heads off to boarding school, Christopher tells Pooh that the thing he'll miss most about his days in the Hundred Acre Wood is doing nothing. "Doing nothing," Christopher says, "often leads to the very best of something."
Flash forward a few decades and Christopher has been through school, fought in a war, and now works in a busy office where men spend every waking moment and hardly see their families. And while the film may take place a few years after World War II, Christopher would fit right in in 2018. He's overworked, stressed, and, according to his wife Evelyn (Hayley Atwell) he "hasn't smiled in years." Though it's meant to be innovative and visionary, Christopher's office feels like a place where inspiration goes to die. His colleagues and subordinates are clearly cogs in a wheel, and the nepotism that plagues the company makes it so few can climb the ladder.
So when Pooh, Eeyore, Tigger and the rest make their way back into Christopher Robin's life, it isn't just to jog Christopher's recollection of childhood and make him nostalgic. They inspire him to make a lasting lifestyle change. "Do nothing," they suggest – take time off, take care of yourself, and see your family. It's clear that their overarching message is emphasizing the importance of mental health, and with today's workforce afraid to lose their jobs over everyday life duties like picking up their children or going to the doctor, Christopher Robin's advocacy of work-life balance feels incredibly on point.
Pooh's advice to Christopher Robin, that taking time off to simply do nothing is necessary and good, is even backed up by science. Psychology Today details studies that prove intermittent breaks throughout the day are beneficial to mental health and career success. Breaks restore motivation, increase productivity and creativity, and refresh our minds and bodies. "Most of us wouldn't think twice about taking a breather after an hour of basketball or Zumba, but mental fatigue is another story," wrote Entrepreneur.
On a larger scale, taking vacation time, if you have it, is essential for avoiding burnout and chronic work stress, which can lead to things like heart disease, obesity, and other major medical issues. "Vacation is essential to reset and remind yourself that career is not the be-all and end-all," CNN writes. "There are other facets to a healthy existence [outside work]." And it's true; it may just be that in your empty hours you find a new hobby or reunite with a long-unseen friend.
Spoilers ahead. At the end of Christopher Robin, it may seem silly that the titular character's great epiphany to save the luggage company he works for is simply to offer the employees paid vacation, but he's actually addressing the larger issue of employee burnout and stress-induced illnesses. That he then, in turn, allows his daughter more free time to play and simply be a kid instead of shipping her off to a demanding school, is also a reflection of today's progressive parenting and education approaches.
Whether you grew up reading the Pooh books or watching the cartoon movies, Christopher Robin will feel like a heartwarming and charming reunion with beloved characters. But it also touches on some of the issues that plague the American workforce today while advocating for self-care, work-life balance, and mental health. So take a piece of advice from Winnie the Pooh and do a bit of nothing this weekend. You never know what somethings might pop up.