Funny enough this blog topic has been in my head for some weeks, but I didn’t get to finish this post until now on the first day of my personal break: two weeks of half holidays (half-day work, half-day holidays;)) in Greece!
So, giving yourself a break refers to 1) not being so strict with yourself and 2) taking regular breaks from your daily activities.
Which one resonates more with you at this moment?
Both are equally important and also related. Let’s start by having a look at why it’s so important to actually have regular breaks during the day. And the next blog post will be about being less strict with yourself by turning your inner critic into your inner cheerleader.
Why we Need Regular Breaks
‘Sometimes you need to step back to see your true vision.’ ~anonymous
Below are more motivations to give yourself a break (at least once) a day:
- We’re not machines designed to operate 24h a day…
- Having a time-out from our daily doings provides distance and perspective.
- Whenever we take a break, we tank energy which increases our productivity and helps us finish our tasks sooner.
- We refresh, replenish and gain new energy that lasts longer, without needing a KitKat (sorry, couldn’t resist)
- If your job involves a lot of sitting and staring at the screen, you’ll know that this isn’t the most engaging activity. Taking a break can provide fresh insights and boost creativity.
- Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase that ‘sitting is the new smoking’.
Having regular breaks helps relieve stress and stay healthy in the long-term
When’s the Best Time to Take a Break?
Breaks are more effective when taken *before* they are needed. –infographic
We don’t wait for our car’s tank to be empty until we fill up on gas. So why is it so hard to fill our own cup along the way? If you’re ambitious, hard-working and enthusiastic you might be unconsciously or even consciously ignoring your body’s signals telling you it’s time to take a break. Usually the moment we take a break, it’s already too late. Just like the moment you’re thirsty means you’re already dehydrated… but I’m drifting off.
One way to recognise it’s time for a break is by becoming aware of the signals telling you that your energy is running low, just like you would take note of the blinking light which signals that your car is running low on gas.
What are your signals? One idea is to write a list to start recognising them.
Some examples are:
- Shallow breathing
- Clenching your jaws
- Feeling exhausted
- Feeing overwhelmed
- Becoming unfocused and distracted (Facebook anyone?)
- Surpassing your daily dose of coffee…
What’s Holding you Back?
It sounds so simple to take regular breaks during the day and by now we know the benefits, but why is it so hard to actually implement?
If I suggest to take a 5-min break right now… how do you react? Do you think: good idea, let me take a stretch, or: I’ll do it when I’ve finished reading this article. Whatever you think or do gives a good representation of what might be holding you back (and if you just had a nice 5-min stretch, congrats, you can skip this section;))
Here are some of the reasons that might be holding you back:
- Pressure – internal or external pressure (deadlines, overwhelm).
- Environment – if you work in an office, you might worry what others will think.
- Guilt – if you’re not busy 24/7
- Fear – of not fitting in, not being or doing good enough.
- Procrastination – ‘I can take a break once I’ve finished this sentence, paragraph, ok, article’
At the root of all these reasons lies our ‘inner critic’, that strict voice that pressures us into constantly performing or judging us if we don’t.
The first step to overcoming this inner critic is by actually becoming aware of it and getting to know it better. What does it say? How does it make you feel? Do you recognise it’s voice from the past? What does it want to achieve?
Once you start paying attention to it, it might seem to get worse at first. But in reality it’s only because you’re now aware of it that you realise how often it actually shows up. This step and realisation alone can be enough to break it’s spell on you.
The full three-step process (1. recognise 2. reply 3. reverse) will be discussed in the next blog post: turning your inner critic into your inner cheerleader.
Breaks Create Balance
So now that you’re clear on why breaks are so important and have become aware of the blocks that might be holding you back, it’s time to decide what you’ll actually be doing during your new breaks.
This is the action that will turn you into a seasoned self-care expert. As you learn to recognise and heed the needs of your body, mind and spirit, you’ll become less dependent on outside influences to give you peace of mind, happiness or fulfill you in any other way.
This quote says it all: ‘we’re human beings not human doings’ and taking regular breaks throughout the day (but also throughout different phases of the week, month, year ) helps us balance doing with being.
And creating balance is what these breaks are all about. It’s not about being lazy or escaping from our responsibilities. It’s about taking care of ourselves so that we become better at what we do and more fun to be around. Win-win. And so the easiest way to assess what you need is to do the opposite of what you’ve been doing. Have you been:
- sitting behind the computer? Take a walk
- cleaning up the whole morning? Lie on the couch for a bit
- working for hours in a row? Find something fun to do
- inside all day? Go outside
You get the picture, in the end it’s that simple. Once you start finding fun activities to do during your breaks and creative ways to actually take them despite outer circumstances, they might just become an unmissable part of your daily routine. Below are some ideas to get you started.
12 Ideas to do during your Next Break
- Inspiration: watch a YouTube or TedX movie or read an inspirational article.
- Journal: write out everything that’s on your mind to clear your head.
- Nature: take a walk in nature and come back refreshed, revived, revitalised.
- Move: take a stretch, walk or dance break.
- Connect: chat, phone, whatsapp, whatever… connect with a friend or co-worker.
- Daydream: or doodle to connect with your creativity.
- Read: an article or part of a book to change your thoughts.
- Nap: if you have a possibility, a 20-min power nap is the ultimate way to reset.
- Laugh: watch a funny video.
- Music: pull out your headphones and listen to your favorite playlist.
- Meditation: can be as simple as closing your eyes and paying attention to your breath
- Social media: a short social media break can give connection, inspiration and laughs.