Taking Breaks

Taking a break is not a luxury or a weakness. It is essential for health and wellbeing.  It will lower your stress, increase your concentration, your memory, your ability to learn and your creativity.

Your calm mind is the ultimate weapon against your challenges. So Relax.”  Bryant McGill

When you take breaks, you will work smarter and you will also reduce anxiety or feelings of stress. Some of the more successful business corporations in USA and UK have already realised the benefit of building quality break times into the working day, knowing that the payoff will be an increase in productivity and creativity and a drop in sick absence.

Einstein is reported to have said that he never once had a brilliant idea whilst thinking; that all his ‘eureka’ moments came while he was gazing aimlessly out of the window!

It’s easy to over-ride the need for a break. The fast pace of modern living often means that a person might feel that they have no choice but to work through. The restrictions imposed by a work environment can also make it difficult to take a break. This is an opportunity to use some creative and flexible thinking so that you find a way, rather than accept that it’s not possible.

Over-riding the need for a break is a false economy. Giving yourself the opportunity to take regular breaks has profound physical and mental benefits. Professional organisations that encourage the taking of regular breaks notice an increase in productivity and a drop in sick absence.

If you want the science, it’s at the bottom of the page.

So, step one is Learn to take regular breaks. This does not mean that you walk away from your desk and continue to ponder that little problem – it means that you allow your brain to rest… or reset! Let it daydream, let it recall a pleasant time, let it do nothing. Respect the fact that your body knows better than you what it needs.

Maybe one of the skills you will need for this is to know when to say ‘no’ or to acknowledge to yourself and others when things get too tough. Ask for help and support. Remember, if you over ride your natural rhythm you will not achieve optimum performance.

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You wanted the science?

You are probably already aware that your body has it’s own natural rhythms and that these rhythms help to regulate your health and wellbeing. Circadian rhythms are part of a ‘24 hour’ cycle that regulates patterns of sleeping and eating. The brain activity in these rhythms is also linked to hormone production, cell regeneration and many other biological activities.

Whereas the circadian rhythm occurs once a day, there is another rhythm (Ultradian) that happens more than once and you can really benefit from listening to your body’s natural relaxation rhythm. Every 90-120 minutes your brain swings from left to right hemispheric dominance for about 20 minutes. During these times you are likely to experience brief dips in concentration or perhaps a tendency to drift off into a daydream. When you are sleeping, your brain responds to this ultradian interval by slipping into a dream.

During the normal course of a person’s day, they are likely to be involved in ‘left brain’ activities; i.e. thinking, working things out, problem solving, making decisions and so on. There comes a time when this left hemisphere naturally requires some ‘down time’. To use a computing analogy, your brain needs time to ‘file away’ or ‘make sense’ of information and stimuli that has been coming in. During this down time, the brain will delete irrelevant files and organise and save all the useful ones, thus refreshing the brain for continued use throughout the day. This is just one of the vital benefits of taking a break. When you take a little while to relax, the right hemisphere of the brain is more active. The right hemisphere houses creativity, imagination, inspiration, intuition, instinct, symbols, emotions, imagery etc. If you were to think of this hemisphere as a muscle, you can imagine how a person can benefit from ensuring that it is well exercised. Einstein is reported to have said that he never once had a brilliant idea whilst thinking; that all his ‘eureka’ moments came while he was gazing aimlessly out of the window!

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