By the time you’ve finished reading this, we hope you will be up and walking around.
When was the last time you stood up? Took a walk? Drank a glass of water? If the answer is “longer ago than I’d like to admit,” don’t beat yourself up. The truth is that most of us are not taking as many breaks as we should, but let’s be real — how can we? Now that we’re working from home, we’re always on call. There’s no longer the expectation that you may be out of pocket while commuting on the subway, flying for a business trip, or out to a lunch meeting. We are all at home... all of the time.
Breaks are the unsung hero of the work day
This probably won’t come as a surprise to you, but the benefits of taking a break are numerous. Breaks are up there with hydration as one of the most critical ways to recharge your body and mind. When you’re working, your brain is getting stimulated. All those emails, likes, messages, even the bright LED screen — it’s all a form of stimulation. Without breaks, you’re basically overdosing on stimulation.
You’re also using up your attention span, of which you don’t have a fixed amount. Ever notice how much harder it is to make decisions when you’re overworked? That’s from a lack of attention. Work requires sustained attention, and breaks allow you to recharge your depleted attention span and restore focus.
Why it’s so hard to take a break
We know breaks are necessary to rest and recharge your mind. And yet we still don’t take nearly enough of them. Why? We think it’s twofold:
- Social pressure. We feel obligated to be on call, so we feel anxiety when we’re unreachable.
- We are addicted to the stimulation and dopamine we get from our screens.
So if a break means experiencing anxiety and screen withdrawal while jonesing for dopamine, it makes sense that we don’t take enough of them.
Break the spell
Alas, there is hope! If the idea of a one-hour lunch break or even 15-minute walk feels too out of reach, start with baby steps. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will your perfect, idyllic wellness routine. Start with a five-minute break. Seriously! Even just five minutes to rest your eyes and mind will be impactful. Walk to the kitchen, fill your water glass, and be back at your desk before your Slack messages drown your desktop. Or walk to the end of your block or driveway and back. But here’s the catch: the screens stay put. Leave your phone, your laptop, your beeper, your fax machine — leave it all behind while you take your break. To get the full break benefits, it has to be just for you.
And to really put a cherry on top, add a few sips of water while you’re at it.
OK, hop to it!