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Have a Break


It seems that there is finally light at the end of a very dark and long tunnel.  The resurgence of nature with spring brings with it the return of some welcome normality. I use the word “normal” lightly here, as I think things will not be as they used to be, rather a new normal will emerge. As we feel the bustle of life and activity around, we also see the effects of – what I call, “resocialisation”.

Whether you are returning to school, going back into the workplace, coming out of furlough, venturing into shops, pubs, restaurants, gyms, sports clubs, or a long-awaited uniting of family and friends, this resocialisation is bringing with it its own sense of apprehension and for some, anxiety. As excited as we all are to have theses things back, I am seeing clients who are struggling to manage their anxiety as well as work-life-home balance due to the new demands, and sense of overwhelm these activities are triggering.

It is no surprise we are seeing an increase in work related stress and illness. With redundancies happening all the time, more and more companies seem to be operating on skeleton staff.  Pressure is high, budgets are tight and there seems to be a palpable air of tension within most organisations.  There is a big call to action asking for companies to engage in wellbeing services for their staff.  Big corporations, with larger budgets, have successfully implemented a range of workplace wellbeing services, leaving the smaller companies struggling to keep up.  Cost effective steps to implement workplace wellbeing strategies can be introduced effectively without costing too much money.

Do you remember the Kit-Kat advert tag line- “Have a break, have a Kit-Kat”? as a Holistic Therapist I would not advocate the Kit-Kat, but I absolutely advocate the “Have a break”. In fact, I regularly recommend that clients take a minimum of three 5-minute breaks a day. Regardless of whether you are a student preparing for exams, working from home, or working at the office, making sure you step away from your desk regularly through the day. I often work with clients who are in “head -down” mode, not moving from their desk for up to 5 hours at a time, not even for something to drink or a visit to the washroom.

Research shows that sitting in the same position for an extended period, causes strain within the musculoskeletal system causing ligaments and other structures to compensate for poor posture. This causes more wear and tear, increasing inflammation resulting in discomfort and pain throughout the body.  Taking a break will not only help mitigate symptoms arising from physical stress but will create headspace to manage emotional responses such as irritability, erratic thoughts, a sense of overwhelm which are often felt as a result of the lack of movement.  Instilling a habit where individuals understand the importance of stepping away from their desk when they feel the pressure increasing, can be invaluable. Stepping away gives their body a physical break and a mental break from the stress and helps them re-charge for the rest of the day.

Studies have shown that taking regular breaks can: –

  • Increase productivity. While taking breaks might sound counterintuitive when it comes to boosting productivity, it’s one of the best ways to do so. Individuals gain focus and energy after stepping away from their desks.  A lunch break can help prevent an unproductive, mid-afternoon slumps.
  • Boost creativity. Taking a break can a fresh perspective on challenging projects. It is hard for individuals to develop new ideas or solutions when they have been looking at the same thing all day. A break gives the brain a change of scenery allowing for different synapses to be stimulating, this will certainly help get those creative juices flowing.
  • Boost motivation. Overwhelm drains our passion for the work we are engaged in.
  • Improve task satisfaction. Stress reduces our feelgood hormones resulting in less joy and satisfaction with the task at hand, resulting in a loss of engagement.

Changing the work mindset around taking breaks is important. Last year, across the globe, we saw individuals working longer and harder. They replaced their commute to work with logging on early to get through their workload, forgetting that the logging on early should be followed with finishing early.  Life became a jumbled mess of all work with small bits of life and home thrown in here and there.

We are not designed to work under high stress levels for the length of time we do. We need short, regular breaks, through the day to help us reset and recharge, as without these we will be seeing an increase in physical and mental health related problems.

If I have managed to convince you to start the practice of having a few short breaks during the day, here are a few things you could try: go for a brisk walk up and down the road or along the corridor, stetch your body, climb a flight of stairs, rehydrate with a glass of water, make a cuppa and practice mindfully sipping it without the distraction of a gadget, get outdoors and soak up some sunshine, practicing simply sitting and listening to the sounds of nature around you, try some relaxing breathing techniques or meditation. Whatever you chose to do, know that these short breaks during the day will go a long way to improving your health and wellbeing.

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