By Carrie Havranek
I started implementing regular breaks in my workday as a result of being a remote worker, but regardless of your set-up, we can — and should — learn to recognize when we’ve hit that proverbial brick wall. How do we deal with crushing overwhelm when the demands don’t stop? We have to be the ones who know how — and when — to stop and take a break, even if it’s just for a half an hour.
Sometimes, rather than power through, I stop and ask myself this question: “What’s the best thing I can do to take care of myself in this moment?” Sometimes the answer is powering through and finishing the task at hand; I’ll feel better when it’s finished and I’ve got deadlines to meet. But sometimes, a break is what is needed to shift perspective and provide me with the energy needed to finish the task.
Here are 5 little ways to take a break right now.
1. Go outside.
Prioritize your time outside as much as you prioritize your work, by implementing time outside on a regular basis. Research continues to show that spending time outside has powerful benefits for our mental and physical health and that “green exercise”—i.e. exercising outside, is especially beneficial. Researchers at the University of Essex, England discovered that just five minutes of green exercise brought about a boost in self-esteem and mood.
If it helps to schedule it in like a 15-minute meeting with yourself, go for it. If you can operate with some spontaneity, take a break when the spirit moves you — or if it’s looking like the weather won’t cooperate unless you go outside now.
2. Move around.
If you can’t get outside for whatever reason, stand up and move around. Stretch, dance, do a few down dogs, get in some squats or sit-ups. If you’re feeling ambitious, try this 7-minute workout. The point is, the best type exercise is the one you will do, whatever that is.
3. Cook something.
If you like to cook, this is a go-to move. (You’ve heard of procrasti-baking, right?) But it doesn’t have to be a huge project. Take 15-20 minutes and prep something now that future you will be so thankful for, whether that’s chopping vegetables for dinnertime or cooking a big batch of grains that you can eat throughout the week. This simple act can provide you with a moment of mindfulness and gratitude toward everyone who had a hand in bringing the food to your table —including yourself!
4. Clean something.
Sometimes taking a break can feel overwhelming when there’s just so much stuff on your to-do list. Consider this: It takes just a few minutes to put away the dishes, make the bed, or fold the laundry. The key is to step away from your work and focus instead on something else. You’ll check something off your list and give your brain a break. Win-win.
5. Take a power nap.
I was never been one to nap, not even in college, when napping was a kind of art form. But now, it’s not uncommon for me to sneak off to my bedroom in the middle of the afternoon, despite how much work I do or don’t have waiting for me. The benefits of napping are well-documented; the Sleep Foundation says that even a short nap of 20 to 30 minutes “can help to improve mood, alertness, and performance.” Bonus: A nap that short won’t typically interfere with your nighttime sleep.