SCW: Take a (real) Break!

This month’s installment of our SelfCare Wednesday (SCW) series, by GGTW health and wellness contributor Go-getter Gaithri Raj.

We’re all a little guilty of not giving ourselves the breaks we need (and deserve). Perhaps it’s due to being overworked, and maybe the prevalent misconception that inactivity or leisure activity is not productive or is viewed negatively. 

Regardless of how it is perceived, we’ve definitely heard the excuses before:

“I’ll take a break later when I have more time. It’s no big deal.”

“I already have the document open, I’ll just finish it up first.”

“I’m too busy to take a break.”

In fact, research has shown consistently that our resting brain isn’t being idle at all. It continues to work on deepening our understanding of the day and improving our neural connections for new information received. Not allowing your brain the opportunity to engage in this restorative behavior can have negative effects.

There are countless studies and articles that outline how these negative effects play out. In Why Your Brain Needs More Downtime, author Ferris Jabr provides research that supports resting, napping, meditating, and taking breaks. Some of the findings: The practice of napping before night shifts reduced the prospective number of collisions; regular meditation increased the brain’s efficiency in completing a test; a walk in the city improved memory recall.

Famous CEOs and industry leaders have shared that they block out time on their calendar to allow time to have breakfast with the family, hike, or meditate. Most importantly, whatever they choose to do is typically an activity that does NOT involve work. 

What about the rest of us? How can we find little ways to incorporate breaks in our day?

  • Make it a physical break. While it may seem to help a little, watching a bunch of kitten videos at your desk really isn’t an ideal break. Physically removing yourself from the environment is an important step towards feeling rejuvenated when you return. Weather permitting, take that walk outside (and get bonus points for Vitamin D from the sun!) Take a walk with a friend or head over to a nearby cafe for an herbal tea.
  • Use help from an app. There are various apps that apply the Pomodoro technique, which incorporate small breaks into your work schedule after periods of work. Typically this is set up so that you take 5-minute break after working for 25 minutes. In an hour, you work for 50 minutes and have a total of 10 minutes as a break. 
    • Instead of a digital nudge from an app, you could also use the timer on your phone for a no-fuss easy solution.
  • Enlist a friend. Sure, I can schedule a time on my calendar to take that break, but it is super easy to ignore the calendar reminder or the ping from an app. However, when my coworker shows up at my desk, I don’t have an opportunity to have an excuse. Having a partner helps me be more accountable about taking my break. 

Here are some other resources you can consult about this important self-care topic:

  • Why and How You Should Take Breaks at Work from Psychology Today asserts that breaks can boost performance.
  • This article on Buffer includes a section on how to stop feeling guilty about taking breaks.
  • If you’re too strapped for time to take the break time we recommend in our post, this article from Lifehack suggests a six-minute break every 80 minutes, among other ideas and reasons for taking a time-out.
  • If you’re in charge of a team, or want to be, you should know that regular breaks can help with job satisfaction.
  • Out of ideas for what really constitutes a break? This brainstorm from Muse lists 51 different ideas for break activities, including completing a lesson on a language app, creating a sculpture out of office supplies, or looking at the National Geographic photo archives.

Do you have a favorite break activity you’d like to share with the GGTW community? Send it to us here, or leave it in the comments below!

Speaking of taking breaks…

This makes the 60th Go Get The World post! In fact, we’ve published something to embrace, encourage and empower you every Wednesday since June 20, 2018. But now, we need a break to recharge our batteries and get our creative juices flowing again. So, we’re taking our own advice and are taking a little time off from writing new posts.

For the month of August, we’ll be sharing our favorite #embracing, #encouraging and #empowering posts with you each week instead of providing something new. This will be a great way to read some posts you may have missed, especially if you’re new to our community. We had fun figuring out our faves and look forward to sharing them again. So, soak up the sun, kick back your heels, and enjoy taking a real break!

Tropical diversion. Photo (c) TYBiagi, 2016.

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