Burnout breathers: Building in breaks is vital to your mental health
Whether at home or work (which could be the same place for many of you), it’s likely you’ve rarely been finding time to take a break — a real, meaningful and effective break.
If you have five minutes before a meeting, you may be making yourself lunch or helping your child with a math problem or science project.
If you finish writing an email, you may take a quick moment to check Facebook or Twitter for political news or COVID-19 updates.
And yes, you’ve probably found yourself working hard at all hours of the day without even noticing it — checking emails on your phone after hours or making notes for the next day.
But none of that is helping you catch your breath. And those who never catch their breath are at risk of getting burned out.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent this from happening — and to keep your emotional and mental health intact despite a chaotic world swirling around you.
It turns out that building in small breaks at regular intervals will improve your productivity and your mental health.
While how long your breaks last is up for some debate, most scientific evidence points to something similar to the Pomodoro Technique, which calls for a five minute break for every 25 minutes of work — or 10 minutes every hour.
But when you’re surrounded by work — and likely live where you work — how can you be certain that your breaks are effective?
The key is to turn off for a bit. So plan some burnout breathers into your day.
Here are a few ideas:
- Eat lunch away from your desk. This is especially important when working from home. If you grab a meal and return to your desk to check email while chowing down, you aren’t giving yourself a break.
- Go for a walk. Yes, the weather is getting colder, but until the snow piles up, a short five- or 10-minute walk will do wonders.
- Focus on something different. Once it does get bitterly cold, take a quick walk around your house or apartment, maybe going to rooms or floors you typically don’t see regularly. Or just look out the window and people watch or look for birds. It’s easier to see the birds or watch the weather moving in during winter when the trees are bare.
- Exercise. Lift hand weights or do some push-ups. You could even just stretch or do a short 10-minute yoga video. Even if it’s not strenuous, this will improve both your mental and physical well-being.
- Play a game. iPhones and iPads are great for staying in touch — but be sure you aren’t always checking work email or reading about stressful news. Play a mindless game for five minutes or compete against a friend in a word challenge. That will help you interact with others while taking your mind off things that bring you down.
- Read a book. You can escape momentarily from the outside world by diving into a book you love. Even during the workday, you may find it helpful to take five minutes here and there to read a few pages.
These are just a few of the countless ways you can try to ensure you don’t get overwhelmed during the day.
But what ways work for you? Share a few burnout breathers in the comments section below!
This is the kickoff of a series of wellness stories to be highlighted in Headlines this week. Stay tuned throughout the week for more!