Are you experiencing overwhelm, stress, even burnout in your professional or executive role? These are all the frequent unfortunate side effects of a world that seemingly can never be turned off along with a persistent drive for greater productivity. Harvard researcher and psychologist, Shelley Carson stated, “If you are stuck on a problem…a distraction may provide the break you need to disengage from a fixation on the ineffective solution.” We’ve all heard that sometimes people find that they get their best ideas in the shower. Since we don’t have to give too much thought to how we go about our daily shower, it frees the mind up to work on other things. So, taking a break can actually improve your productivity. And, sometimes, we need more than just a 10-minute break when we’ve let the drive to get things done go on for too long.
As a case in point, I recently found myself feeling fatigued, foggy and a bit stressed after a non-stop month. How in the world did this happen? I’m usually so conscious of giving myself a break. Yet, due to two weekend commitments to teach, a weekend with an out-of-town family event, along with working normal work weeks, nearly a month went by without a day off. No wonder that my energy level had plummeted and I couldn’t think straight!
Slipping away from our practices to give ourselves time off during hectic times can happen to all of us. Sometimes, it may be necessary to take a few days away to rest and recharge when we let ourselves get beyond a certain point. Recognizing that I’d passed that point, I took a Friday afternoon off, spent the weekend enjoying time with my significant other, and put my feet up and watched a movie. The focus of attention was on completely non-work-related things. By the end of the weekend, I felt like myself again – rested, focused and ready to be fully engaged. What I noticed the following week was a higher level of productivity, by far, than in previous weeks. Does this scenario sound familiar to you?
So, what to do? Ideally, we stay consistent with taking time off each week and doing those activities that replenish our energy, whatever they may be. Additionally, we look for those moments within each day to insert a brief break. Doing so also contributes to our productivity and creativity. Rachael O’Meara, the author of “Pause: Harnessing the Life-Changing Power of Giving Yourself a Break” suggests 4 practices to consider. They include 1) standing and taking 10 deep breaths 2) taking a digital break – no devices for a set period of time each day 3) taking a walk to change your environment, and 4) creating one-minute of mindfulness while eating or brushing your teeth. These are very simple strategies that, practiced daily, will support our ability to keep our energy up, and allow us to accomplish far more than if we keep trying to power through what’s on our plate.
If you recognize that you’re not feeling rested and renewed, please join me in recommitting to incorporating breaks into each day and week. Doing so will positively affect every aspect of your life.