Recent research has highlighted how important it is to take a break at regular intervals throughout the day. When a three month survey was undertaken at Sheffield University involving 850,000 people they found that responses, rapid perception and decision-making were better, more effective when people avoided cramming intensively and applied a looser, more relaxed approach.
Let's have a look at the role of breaks as a way to manage stress:
- We all have a twenty-four hour body clock that regulates how we function and supports us as we walk, exercise and undertake our daily tasks throughout the day. It also regulates our internal processes too, managing activities like healing, cell renewal, digestion, detoxifying.
Taking a 15-20 minutes break approximately every 90 minutes allows our internal functions to occur more effectively. If we regularly ignore the need for some down time we can start to notice the effects; we may become stressed, over tired, lose concentration, feel irritable, experience nausea, become vaguely unwell.
- A break can introduce a fresh perspective into a situation. When we're too close to something it can be difficult to see any other way of doing it. A break provides physical distance, fresh air, time out from the intense focus and level of concentration. It's often the time when new ideas or an alternative solution can appear.
- People are often encouraged to eat lunch away from their desk in order to freshen up and take a break from their work. Some people fear that they will waste valuable productive time if they leave their desk or they may prefer to take a short lunch break so they can leave work earlier. But eating a healthy lunch, perhaps having a quick walk outside, some fruit, a drink of water, has been proven to improve productivity on return. A twenty-minute break can provide sufficient time to nourish and rehydrate, allow stress levels to subside and introduce a calmer mental perspective.
- Many over worked, stressed people find that they are irritable with family and friends, have no time for anything other than work, don't sleep too well, are preoccupied. And yet often the very reason they started working so hard was to provide better for their family, enjoy an improved quality of life, find job satisfaction and achieve a greater level of success.
Balance can return by taking a break, learning to say no, delegating to others and forming alliances with complementary professionals with whom there is the option to share the load whilst supporting each other.
- Taking a break in the evening can be as simple as going for a walk whilst the evening meal is cooking. It's important to share time with family and friends and dedicate attention to those relationships. Turn off the computer, put the phone on to silent for a couple of hours before bed and allow time to relax, wind down and mentally prepare for a good night's sleep.
If work involves a lot of mental effort try to complement that by scheduling some physical exertion like going to the gym, having a run or a game of tennis or football. If work is hard physically then try to find time for mental activities like puzzles, games and reading. This supports a good, balanced state of mind and body.
A little planning and reorganisation can introduce a better work/life balance so that every part of your life becomes less stressful, more enjoyable and positive and brings satisfaction into your life. By taking a break you can help to manage stress.