Have you noticed that our working days get longer and longer? There is always something to fix, work to do, countless deadlines and urgent last-minute jobs. We work harder, spend more time at our workplaces, less with our family and doing our hobbies, then going home checking our work emails and bringing all this stress home. We need a break! And it doesn’t need to be a big holiday break (although I wouldn’t mind it 😉 ) but even few small breaks which would cut a working day in few manageable chunks. In this post, I would like to explain why you need these breaks.
“Every person needs to take one day away. A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future. Jobs, family, employers, and friends can exist one day without any one of us, and if our egos permit us to confess, they could exist eternally in our absence. Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.”
― Maya Angelou, Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now
I think the most important for us is to change the way we perceive a break
A break is usually understood as an idle, wasted time, which takes us away from productivity and actual work. We are too busy to take breaks! But it is really a misunderstanding. We need a break to actually be more productive, happy and focused. The break brings refreshment, encourages creativity and replenishes attention. Too many times we just keep going and going with our work, not taking any rest, until we go to the point of burnout.
In 2013 the Scientific American Mind magazine published the article “Why Your Brain Needs More Downtime” (see the full article here ). Citing from it: “What research to date also clarifies is that even when we are relaxing or daydreaming, the brain does not really slow down or stop working. Rather—just as a dazzling array of molecular, genetic and physiological processes occur primarily or even exclusively when we sleep at night—many important mental processes seem to require what we call downtime and other forms of rest during the day. Downtime replenishes the brain’s stores of attention and motivation, encourages productivity and creativity, and is essential to both achieve our highest levels of performance and simply form stable memories in everyday life. A wandering mind unsticks us in time so that we can learn from the past and plan for the future. “
Break keeps us from getting unfocused
A study in the journal “Cognition” demonstrates that even brief diversions from a task can dramatically improve one’s ability to focus on a task for prolonged periods. Our brains are not designed to keep focusing for long periods of time. You can be extremely motivated, focused on a task, generate great ideas but if we don’t rest your brain, your productivity spur will not last long. Introducing a break, brief interruption to the process, will help you to refocus again.
Burnout is common when people do not take breaks from their work
You start with enthusiasm and motivation, put your effort and heart to your work, spend more and more time there, work harder and harder until the work becomes less enjoyable, and something you loved before turn into a real chore. You are getting tired with what you used to like and work becomes boring and unattractive. This is a common scenario for many business owners who lost their passion and focus and gave up their dreams.
So, what is the solution??? Just take a break and do something fun! Go for a walk! Listen to your favourite song! Read a book! Buy yourself an ice-cream! Meet a friend for lunch! Enjoy your mental break before you come back refreshed and ready to use your brain again.
Working long hours and exposure to stress is almost guaranteed recipe for health problems
We all know that but for some reason we still do it. Playing lottery with our health. Prolonged working hours, no physical activity and too many hours stuck in front of the computer. It doesn’t help! Get up from your desk and keep moving. Even short break can inject a little bit of movement in your day and lift up your mood. Many people go to gym or yoga class around lunch time to come back refreshed and motivated. You can get rid of your stress and keep your body in good shape at the same time.
If you are constantly battling deadlines and are too busy to take breaks, the stress level picks up and prevents you to perform on your optimal level. This can lead to more frustration, more stress and depression. You can avoid it by designing your working days with incorporated breaks.
Closing your eyes, consciously relaxing your body and just taking few deep breaths focusing on breathing in and out, can bring amazing sensation of relaxation and calmness. Try it for yourself and you will be surprised how much power this simple exercise has!
You can even go step further and try short meditation. Don’t panic yet, nobody asks you to sit in lotus position and hum “omm” for few hours 😉 You would be surprised how many people use it in their life. You can get the app on your phone (many of them free) with short guided meditations (by short I mean even 5 or 10 min session), relaxation music or just nature sounds to be played in the background when you focus on other things. Don’t tell me you cannot stop for 5 min and relax. This 5 minutes can make such a difference in your day!
Break let us evaluate our goals
When we take a break, our body and mind relaxes and we can see things in different light. It helps us to step back and re-evaluate our goals, strategies and directions.
Stop and ask yourself- Is what I’m doing what I really want? Is the direction I’m going towards right for me?
When you are too busy and not allowing breaks, you also not allowing reflection. You need a reflection on your life and your life decisions, so you can be able to adjust and change things as needed or just confirm that you are happy with what you have. You don’t want to wake up one day and realize that you wasted your life for something you didn’t believe in.
Unfortunately, in everyday life, we tend to ignore our needs. Constant rush, lack of free time, prolonged working hours, not enough downtime. Why not to change it? Let’s embrace any opportunity to relax and enjoy our life. It starts from a short break. Take a break, “5 minutes holidays” during your day and notice the effects.
Have few minutes for yourself, relax, reflect on your life and ask yourself few questions:
- When was a last time you took a vacation? Day off from work or long weekend?
- Is the stress in your life affecting your mood, relationships, work? Do you have strategies to deal with it?
- What can you do to introduce relaxation in your life?
To finish my article, I want to share with you a story which I read on Paulo Coelho’s blog. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did.
There was once a businessman who was sitting by the beach in a small Brazilian village.
As he sat, he saw a Brazilian fisherman rowing a small boat towards the shore having caught quite few big fish.
The businessman was impressed and asked the fisherman, “How long does it take you to catch so many fish?”
The fisherman replied, “Oh, just a short while.”
“Then why don’t you stay longer at sea and catch even more?” The businessman was astonished.
“This is enough to feed my whole family,” the fisherman said.
The businessman then asked, “So, what do you do for the rest of the day?”
The fisherman replied, “Well, I usually wake up early in the morning, go out to sea and catch a few fish, then go back and play with my kids. In the afternoon, I take a nap with my wife, and evening comes, I join my buddies in the village for a drink — we play guitar, sing and dance throughout the night.”
The businessman offered a suggestion to the fisherman.
“I am a PhD in business management. I could help you to become a more successful person. From now on, you should spend more time at sea and try to catch as many fish as possible. When you have saved enough money, you could buy a bigger boat and catch even more fish. Soon you will be able to afford to buy more boats, set up your own company, your own production plant for canned food and distribution network. By then, you will have moved out of this village and to Sao Paulo, where you can set up HQ to manage your other branches.”
The fisherman continues, “And after that?”
The businessman laughs heartily, “After that, you can live like a king in your own house, and when the time is right, you can go public and float your shares in the Stock Exchange, and you will be rich.”
The fisherman asks, “And after that?”
The businessman says, “After that, you can finally retire, you can move to a house by the fishing village, wake up early in the morning, catch a few fish, then return home to play with kids, have a nice afternoon nap with your wife, and when evening comes, you can join your buddies for a drink, play the guitar, sing and dance throughout the night!”
The fisherman was puzzled, “Isn’t that what I am doing now?”
I hope you enjoyed. Let me know your thoughts and reflections by leaving a comment below.
Thanks for reading!
17 thoughts on “Why you need to take a break”
That’s a wonderful post! I know for a fact what means stress. I used to work from 9am-forever (could be even 5 am and coming back at work by 9am). Was I tired? Hell, yes! Did I have any time left for anything else than work? Of course no! I was burnt! My health started to be worse and worse until I finished at the hospital. At that time I understood that working like that is crazy and I will just burn out my body.
Thank you for the post that points out that we all need a break! to stop doing what we are doing for a minute and re-load our body! I will use the breathing technique you mentioned going forward to reach maximum relaxation!
Thanks for sharing your experience Anna! It does really look like you know what stress and work overload is!!! I hope you are doing well now.
Please let me know how the breathing technique works for you! Cheers!
This is so timely for me. I’ve been getting headaches in the afternoons lately and I think I really just need to read or take a short walk after lunch.
Headaches can be signs of stress and overworking. Definitely inject more breaks into your day.
Walk after lunch sounds good- it will take your mind off work for a while as well as get your body moving- two benefits in one 😉
Yes! I so agree. When I get caught up in my work, I actually start to lose focus. I become easily distracted. I think now it’s actually a cue that my brain is demanding a needed break. But then when I take a break, I feel guilty. I won’t anymore. Thanks for letting me know why it’s so important. I’m going to take mini meditation breaks or read a few pages of my book.
You should never feel guilty for taking breaks- you actually doing yourself (and others) a favour. You will refresh your brain and come back to work re-focused but also you will improve your mood so everyone can benefit 🙂
This was a great article! I do find that taking breaks does help me recharge and drive on. When it comes to my website i take mandatory days off from writing to keep me hungry for success. I find that getting up walking around for a little and sitting back down is a really good quick fix to prevent burnout. I would say that taking mandatory days off is better for long term success. Thanks for the great information!
Hi Justin, thanks for your comment! It sounds like a good idea- relaxing days off from writing will make you more motivated to come back with refreshed mind and new, great ideas for articles. Good luck with your website!
Gosh, this is so true. I used to work in a very stressful job where I was on the road all the time and in the office for 12+ hours a day. At age 25 my hair was already turning grey/white all over the place. I decided I needed to destress and started paying a lot more attention to taking 15 minute breaks here and there to just breathe and think about something not work related. It made all the difference! And you’re absolutely right that you need to make sure you perceive your break as an actual break, otherwise it is just 15 minutes of time you’re not getting your laundry list of work items completed!
Appreciate your comment Craig! I’m glad you found your way to deal with stress and workload- 15 min breaks should be sufficient to take your mind away for a short holiday 🙂
Hi, Elektra! It is a great, inspirational article for sure. Thank you! We all need to remember that stress is bad for our health and well-being. Meditation helps me a lot with anxiety, stress, and it relaxes me.
I enjoy walking, nature, painting, music and reading a book. These activities help me to relax, give me new energy and let me understand the most important things in my life.
Thank you for sharing!
I know burn out way too well, I get so involved in what I am doing I just over work myself often. I do take short meditation breaks now which has helped my energy and focusing. I recommend meditation for anyone to learn to slow down and prevent burning themselves out.
Great tips you shared today
Thanks for your comment jeffrey! Meditation is an amazing tool- I wish more people would realize it 🙂
This article has a very important message and I totally agree that taking breaks is very important. I came across something called the Pomodoro effect recently and I also wrote a blog post on it.
The idea is that you split up your work into 25-minute intervals, with 5-minute breaks in between. After 4 lots of 25-minutes, you take a longer break (maybe 30 minutes). Many people swear by it and I shall also be experimenting with it.
I love your site, by the way! Books are one of my favourite things! I’ll be returning to read more of your recommendations 🙂
Thanks Joshua, appreciate our comment!
Great suggestions! I heard about Pomodoro effect, it’s been developed in late 1980s as a successful time management method. Apparently there is an app you can download on your phone now which uses it.
Have you tried it yourself?
This is one fact of life that we are all paying for without realizing or even if we realize we keep thinking to ourselves that lets work a little more and break will come later. By the time that break comes we are so exhausted that the break does not seem to be a joy with migraine and backaches. I will try the 5 minutes break, very inspiring article. i feel like reading again and the story is so amazing, I read the whole story and post without scanning through. Thank you for sharing.
Thank you for your kind comment Raman!
Please let me know how did you feel after introducing 5 min break to your day.
I hope it will make a big change in our life. Small steps create change…