MENTAL, PHYSICAL

Give Me a Break: Why Breaks Will Give You The Power to Accomplish More


By Amy Bush, GM

In a world driven by increased production and constant deadlines, we’re always looking for a way to be more efficient with our time. Have you ever found yourself working on a project and several hours later realized that you haven’t moved from your computer? It’s easy to get sucked in, especially when there’s a time crunch. Studies have shown that hitting that “refresh” button is exactly what your brain and body needs to run more efficiently.

Let’s break it down in a physical example. Say you did constant super setting in a resistance training workout with no rest for 3 sets straight. Your muscles would be super fatigued and most likely worked till failure. Whereas if you took even a one-minute water break between sets and walked around, you most likely could lift more weight or perform more reps each set. Breaks work in the same way mentally as they do physically. Think of a break as an exercise that builds a stronger frame of mind to complete the task ahead. The more you practice it, the stronger your work efficiency. “A break is a brief cessation of work, with the intention of getting back to a task within a reasonable amount of time.” Breaks rejuvenate the mind and body to increase productivity and decrease stress and fatigue.

Still feeling like breaks really aren’t that important? Here are more reasons why you shouldn’t just save them for your lunch break.

  • Breaks can prevent decision fatigue. When decision fatigue sets in, we’re left with cloudy decision-making skills and sometimes will opt for what is the EASIEST solution instead of the BEST solution. Also, procrastination can set in and prolong the process of reaching our ultimate decision or goal.

     

  • Breaks provide motivation for our goals. “When we work, our prefrontal cortex (PFC) makes every effort to help us execute our goals. But for a challenging task that requires our sustained attention, research shows briefly taking our mind off the goal can renew and strengthen motivation later on.” says author Nir Eyal. The PFC is responsible for logical thinking, willpower to overcome impulses, and executive functioning. It has quite the job to do, just like you – no wonder it needs a break! These breaks will help you re-align with your goals and help you stay focused on the task ahead.

     

  • Physical breaks will help clear your mental workspace. As you’ve probably heard before, sitting is the new smoking. Whether it’s on your commute into work, in front of the TV after a long day, or at your desk during your workday, this habit can lead to heart disease, diabetes, depression, and obesity. That’s why it’s important to take frequent breaks and walk around your floor or home. Go for a quick 5-10 minute walk to unload your mental exhaustion and focus on something light, like noticing birds outside or lifting your spirits by smiling at another person. Just 5 minutes each hour can provide a huge benefit to not just your work efficiency but also your health and well-being.

While writing this blog post, I took a 5-minute break to do neck stretches and stand up. My mind feels rejuvenated and clear and my muscles feel less tense and more relaxed. If you find that you can’t get away from your desk every hour or so for a walk, then try another method that can give you the same clarity – stretching. We all know that we should stretch a little more, after our workouts, before starting our day and now on our breaks. I’ve included the desk stretching guide below that you can utilize with your breaks. You can run through all the stretches or work on a couple each hour. The choice is yours! If you need extra accountability, check out the app “Desk Job”, it will be the best $.99 you ever paid! I found this app when I transitioned to General Manager and found myself working at my desk more frequently. I would sit for hours without even realizing it, which was wreaking havoc on my posture and leaving me with tight and stiff muscles. Desk Job helps you stay accountable by setting a timer (which you can set specific to your own needs or project), which goes off and prompts you to take a break. It even includes a library of stretches and exercises that you can complete during the break.

So next time you feel overwhelmed and pressed to reach that deadline, remember to take a load off mentally so that you can feel confident and successful for your next project.


Stretching Guide

Chin Tuck:

Exercise 1

  • Facing straight ahead, lower your chin to your chest.
  • Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds. You’ll feel tension in the back of your neck.
  • Relax and slowly return to the starting position.

 

Lateral Neck Stretch:

Exercise 2

  • Look forward while keeping your head up.
  • Slowly move your ear to your shoulder while keeping your hands at your side.
  • Hold stretch for 15 to 30 seconds then slowly return to the starting position.
  • Repeat on other side.

Rotating Neck Stretch:

Exercise 3

  • Facing forward, turn your head to one side while keeping your shoulders straight.
  • Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds. You’ll feel tension in the side of your neck and your shoulder.
  • Relax and slowly return to the starting position.
  • Turn your head to the other side and repeat the stretch.

Wrist Stretch:

Exercise 4

  • While seated, extend your right arm forward at shoulder height.
  • Keeping your elbow straight, grasp your right hand with your left.
  • Slowly bend the wrist backward until you feel a stretch along the bottom of your forearm.
  • Hold for 15 seconds.
  • Now bend wrist downward until a stretch is felt on the top of the arm.
  • Hold for 15 seconds.
  • Switch arms and repeat. Repeat four times for each hand.

Rotating Torso Stretch:

Exercise 5

  • Sitting on a chair with your feet flat on the floor, twist your upper body so your shoulders rotate to one side.
  • Go only as far as you can comfortably. You can use the chair for support, holding on to get a deep muscle stretch.
  • Hold for 15 to 30 seconds or six breaths, and return to the starting position. Repeat on the other side.

Seated Glute Stretch

Exercise 6

  • Sit on a chair; bring one ankle up onto the knee of your other leg.
  • Lean forward, keeping your back straight.
  • Continue forward as far as you can comfortably go, pushing gently on your top knee with your hand.
  • Hold for 15 to 30 seconds, then switch sides.

Hamstring Stretch

Exercise 7

  • Position yourself about a foot and a half behind a chair.
  • Stand up straight, with your shoulders back and feet pointing forward. Keep your knees straight, but not locked.
  • Keeping your neck aligned with your back throughout this move, bend at the hips to a 90-degree angle. (You may need to move the chair forward, so you are putting the weight of your body on the chair and not holding yourself up).
  • Hold for 15 to 30 seconds.

 

Chair Calf Stretch

Exercise 8

  • Sit towards the edge of the seat with your back straight and both legs bent, feet flat on the floor.
  • Straighten your right leg and put your heel on the floor.
  • Flex your foot as much as possible, trying to bring your toes toward your shin. You can also lean your upper body forward, keeping your back straight, and move your torso toward.

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