Regular Recess for Your Brain Breaks done effectively can work as antidote for stress and burnout
BY LISA BÉLANGER, PHD, CSEP-CEP – CEO of ConsciousWorks. Author, international speaker, founder of Knight’s Cabin, and host of The Science of Work podcast. CONSCIOUSWORKS
ur brain needs a break approximately every 40 to 50 minutes. But learning how to properly recover from work and stress, and taking the time to do it, is often an underappreciated way to get a competitive advantage and a sustainable way to work. How do we take effective breaks and why do we need them? Prior to the pandemic, I spent several weeks touring Europe researching how to effectively take time off from work and stress. I spoke with leaders, workers and companies about how they take breaks which led to conversations about vacation time, work hours and even maternity leave (which is, by the way, not a break at all.) I started scheduling breaks into my life and savoured the downtime spent with coworkers. Whether it was sharing baked goods, a run-club outing, meditation or simply enjoying a perfect cup of coffee – there was something incredible about the connection and my newfound respect for these micro breaks. Industry expert Dr. Bob Pozen from MIT Sloan School of Management and co-author of Remote Inc.: How to Thrive
92 Inspiration Issue 2021
at Work…Wherever You Are, explains why breaks are beneficial, citing six positive cognitive effects: 1. Improves focus 2. Increases creativity 3. A walking rest can help consolidate memories 4. Improves decision making 5. Decreases Zoom fatigue 6. Increases worker engagement When we reach for our phone to scroll social media, that is our brain seeking a break. However, this type of break is not entirely conducive to mental recovery and has a known negative impact on mental wellbeing and productivity. An effective break is about connections which replenish and improve performance. Connecting with yourself, with nature or with others.
TIME WITH YOURSELF Connecting with yourself takes as little as two to three minutes alone to practice mindfulness, play an instrument or journal. One of the most effective breaks is physical activity because of its positive impact on the brain’s recovery.
TIME WITH NATURE Surrounding yourself with nature has a powerful meditative effect. If it’s nasty outside, recreate this connection by looking out a window at trees or simply having plants in your home can also be helpful.
TIME WITH OTHERS We have an innate need to connect with people. This was much easier when we were all stationed in one central location but try a quick fiveminute phone call with an old friend or colleague. These micro-breaks, which should be taken throughout the day, allow you to recharge. Many of us work longer hours in this pandemic world leaving little opportunity for those times when we typically unwind on our commute or walk from one meeting to the next. The practice of recharging starts from the top down; if a leader never takes a break, they are unknowingly setting the precedent. Find what works for you. You deserve a break today.