By Carrie Havranek
I started implementing regular breaks in my workday as a result of being a remote worker, but regardless of your set-up, we can—and should—learn to recognize when we’ve hit that proverbial brick wall. How do we deal with crushing overwhelm when the demands don’t stop? We have to be the ones who know how—and when—to stop and take a break, even if it’s just for a half an hour.
Sometimes, rather than power through, I stop and ask myself this question: “What’s the best thing I can do to take care of myself in this moment?” Sometimes that definitely means powering through and finishing the task at hand, because I’ll feel better when it’s finished and I’ve got deadlines to meet. But sometimes, a break is what is needed to shift perspective and provide me with the energy needed to finish the task.
Prioritize your time outside as much as you prioritize your work, if at all possible, by implementing time outside on a regular basis, regardless of what your workload looks like. If it helps to schedule it in like a 30-minute meeting with yourself, go for it. If you can operate with some spontaneity, take a break when the spirit moves you—or if it’s looking like the weather won’t cooperate unless you go outside now.
Research continues to show that spending time outside has powerful benefits for our mental and physical health and that “green exercise”—i.e. exercising outside, is especially beneficial. Researchers at the University of Essex, England discovered that just five minutes of green exercise brought about a boost in self-esteem and mood.
Go Make Some Food
If you like to cook, this is a go-to move. (You’ve heard of procrastibaking, right?) Take 15-20 minutes and prep something now that future you will be so thankful for, whether that’s chopping vegetables for dinnertime or popping some banana bread in the oven for an afternoon snack. Taking a break not only feeds you something delicious, it can provide you with a moment of mindfulness and gratitude toward everyone who had a hand in bringing the food to your table—including yourself—for cooking it.
Serena Poon, chef, nutritionist and reiki master, explains how cooking can shift your vibe. “The energy that you radiate while you cook will elevate the frequency of the dish. As you sit down to eat, give thanks for your food… As you eat, take slow, mindful bites, really savoring every flavor and sensation. After you try this practice, reflect on how it makes you feel. Do you feel energized and satisfied? Are you able to carry this energy into your day and into your life?
It’s easy to see how much needs to be done at home and feel like that list, too, is endless. It’s also even easier to take on all those responsibilities yourself, and sometimes that is the only option. But perhaps you are lucky enough to be able to delegate those tasks. Does the dishwasher need to be unloaded? Is your laundry piling up? Do you have children who are capable? Give them a chore. Everyone pitches in to keep things running smoothly. Is your yard starting to resemble a jungle? Hire someone who will do it—or offer a trade of energy or resources. What are your gifts? What are you good at? Offer them in return for a job well done.
Just Do It….Tomorrow
You’ve had a day of Zoom meetings and it’s 3pm but you haven’t touched your actual workload. The list looks endless and your head hurts and you feel fried. Look at what absolutely needs to be done now, and tackle it. But if you’ve got wiggle room, think of this: you’ve essentially been going nonstop for 6 hours. If that’s the case, and you know trying to finish or concentrate is only going to lead to distraction or a poorly executed task, there’s only one solution. Get up earlier, and do it tomorrow. Or…
Take a Power Nap
I have NEVER been one to nap, not even in college when napping was kind of an art form. All that has changed. It is not uncommon for me to sneak off to my bedroom in the middle of the afternoon, despite how much work I do or don’t have waiting for me, and take something resembling a nap, because I really need it and I’m not going to power through with caffeine that’s likely to keep me up later. The benefits of napping are well-documented; the Sleep Foundation says that even a short nap of 20 to 30 minutes “can help to improve mood, alertness, and performance.” Bonus: A nap that short won’t typically interfere with your nighttime sleep.
Get Off Social Media – Or All Media
Try a media fast for a day or three. Don’t watch television, and stay off social media. Whenever I do this, I’m amazed by how much more space I have for just whatever comes to mind. My concentration improves. My mood is lighter. I become more productive. The break feels good.
Does that feel impossible? Scale it back, start small. Serena Poon recommends people take at least a one-hour break a day. “I find that the most beneficial times to take a break from screens are during mealtimes, to connect with and appreciate your food, during the first waking moments, to be present and connect with your inner self before an onslaught of emails and to-dos hit your brainwaves, and the hour before going to bed, to encourage end of day tension release and better quality sleep,” she says.