Professional lifestyles have changed dramatically over the last few years due to the pandemic, with many now working from home alone, less working on-site, and many scrambling to keep their businesses open and thriving. Adjusting to this new way of life can be challenging and can often lend to a feeling of being overworked or burnt out.
Whether you’re working from home or trying to make the best out of a difficult situation, you need to take breaks. So do yourself a favor and give these 8 de-stressing activities a shot; your performance will improve and they are great ways to naturally improve your mental health.
Why Take A Break?
Before we underscore what you can do to maximize your breaks, you must understand why you need to take them first. It seems counterintuitive to take a break if you’re doing a task, but taking a break provides better efficiency, higher creativity and improved focus, to name a few benefits. Being efficient means doing things right, so let’s make sure you get started on the right step!
To stay focused on the task at hand, you have to resist distractions while working or studying hard. Your prefrontal cortex is primarily responsible for this type of “brain exercise”.
As your brain expends more energy, this level of concentration becomes increasingly tricky to maintain. Prolonged periods of hard work or forced production can cause poor decision making and low quality output, not to mention a decline in mood which doesn’t support good problem solving skills.
Thus, even though it may seem counterintuitive, taking regular breaks is actually beneficial for productivity instead of working without interruption. Breaks can assist you in reducing your level of stress so that you will be able to refocus when you return to your work and may even enhance your memory.
Taking a break is also good for your mental health. As stress accumulates, it builds up stress chemicals such as Cortisol, Adrenaline, and Norepinephrine. These chemicals cause anxiety and increased heart rate. Cortisol increases inflammation which increases pain and illness.
When these chemicals build up, the body cannot function properly, and mental health suffers.
A study done by the United States Army Research Institute found that our bodies’ ultradian rhythms have a 90 minute cycle on average, thus taking a break every 90 minutes is a suggested amount of time. It is commonly suggested that 15 – 20 minutes is an ideal amount of time to take your break. You can take more but most report improved performance and focus after only 15 minutes.
Now that you understand why you should take a break, let’s discuss what to do during your breaks to destress.
De-stressing Activities You Can Try
To enhance your mental health during these times, you should practice simple but effective de-stressing activities. These are not activities like research or walking meetings, which still count as work. These are real “breaks” that take your mind off work and help you recover.
Before you continue with your work, do something that makes you feel good. When you are stressed, you should try something that makes you happy or soothes you. We all have things we really want to do that we’ve been putting off or haven’t had the time to do because of working so many hours, so make the time and reap the rewards!
In my experience, meditation is the most effective and efficient way to de-stress and enhance your performance. Our bodies have a natural way of handling stress and helping us to stay healthy but too often we don’t listen to what our body is telling us and we force the issue.
Mediation allows us to easily move through brain wave states which handle different functions for health. During meditation, your mind begins to process the stress and thoughts that have built up. It also integrates the new information you have learned so you can utilize it when you need it.
There are two main methods of meditation; mindfulness and transcendental. I prefer the latter but both are highly effective when used correctly. In addition, meditation has a compounding effect. The more you meditate, the better you get at it and it becomes harder for stress to stick to you or pull you off track.
Exercise decreases cortisol and increases dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins. These chemicals make you feel good. Physical activity also reduces pain and increases your energy level. Plus you get the added benefits of improving your body and fitness.
When you get up and move, you change your physiology which inherently changes your mindset and focus. In the field of NLP we say, “Motion Creates Emotion” which means, change your environment, change your mind.
Take a Hike
If you can’t get to the gym or don’t prefer to, that’s ok, take a hike! Literally!. The gym can be packed and noisy but nature has an extraordinary way of grounding you and creating a sense of peace for the mind, body and soul. Plus nature walks are great for your cardio, give you fresh air, and they help you sleep better.
Find a nice park or favorite spot to explore and discover what mother nature has to offer.
Take a Nap
When you feel your energy depleting, take a nap. You may not realize this, but napping can significantly enhance your productivity and improve your memory. When you sleep, your brain works to repair itself, so the brain has to work even harder when sleep is interrupted. Napping can give various benefits, especially its ability to refresh your mind.
If you don’t think you can nap in your workplace, nap at home when you can. This will not only allow you to feel refreshed, but it will also help you sleep better.
Creativity is not something everyone can do, but everyone can practice it. It allows you to express your emotions, thoughts, and feelings through a medium. It also lets you express yourself in ways that others may not be able to.
Creativity does not only mean art, but it also means music, dance, performance, and many more. Experiment with different forms of creativity. Try writing a story, painting a picture, composing a song, and even coding if you find it relaxing. Whatever way you express yourself, you will surely enjoy this time.
Socialize with Friends or Loved Ones
Socializing is important, but many people don’t do it as much as they should. Socializing can help you feel relaxed, help relieve stress, and even help prevent the onset of mental illnesses.
Socializing with friends and family is also an excellent way to stay connected. It allows you to feel valued and provides you with essential support. It can also help you feel happier and boost your self-esteem, as it reconnects you with the people that matter.
Obviously you can’t jet off on a Wellness Retreat in the middle of the work day and it would take longer than 15 minutes to do so but there are ways to integrate the same actions into your routine.
Getting a massage is an incredible way to de-stress. It helps to heal your body and relax your mind. Whether you invest in a full body massage or something simpler such as a foot massage or leg massage, it allows your body to let go and energizes you from the inside out.
Many entrepreneurs and executives have taken to working remotely now and therefore can step away from their computer or work and enjoy a stroll on the beach or a dip by the pool. Have fun, be creative and find some great ways to develop a new work lifestyle that inspires and excites you!
As a working professional, it is crucial to know how to de-stress. It is also essential to understand that mental health is as important as physical health. You should try the above activities, allowing you to de-stress and feel better. It is important to practice self-care and treat your mind well. It’s the only one you have, so what are you waiting for…take a break!
Article written in collaboration with Regi Publico