Gimme a Break

by fayjones on April 8, 2013

 When it’s time for a break, it is time.  And boy was it time for me.  My daughter has just finished two weeks off from school for spring break and it couldn’t have come at a better time.  I knew I was tired and I could tell she and her friends were ready for a break in the action, too.  We purposely didn’t plan a whole lot of structured activities, but let each day unfold based on our energy and inspiration.

We definitely took advantage of the time we had.  Sleeping in was priority #1 and we did it EVERY single day of the break.  We spent time with friends and family but balanced that out with quiet time reading, hiking, doing yoga and painting.  The beautiful spring weather lured us out into the garden and we spent a lot of time weeding and preparing the garden for spring planting.  We even tore up our front walkway and designed and laid a new path.

Make the Time

When I hear people complain that they haven’t had a break in “who knows how long,” I’m reminded how easy it is to be sucked into doing “just one more thing” until we truly can’t remember the last time we took a break.  The world marches on — in 24/7 time, most of the time — and unless we take matters into our own hands and make the time, we might just run ourselves into the ground.

It’s also important to remember that it doesn’t have to be a two-week vacation to qualify as a break.  Days, hours or even minutes can make a difference in our physical and mental health and shouldn’t be overlooked.

What Happened When they Took the Time?

There was a study done at Bank of America in the department that processes checks — over one million checks each and every night!  They chose this department specifically because it is a supremely stressful job and they wondered what would happen to the stress levels if the employees were given a few more breaks and incorporated a little breath work into their nights.  They split the employees into two groups:

  • one control group that had the usual 8-hour shift with two 15-minute breaks and a lunch
  • a second group that had all the regularly scheduled breaks PLUS 5 minutes each hour where they stepped away from their work stations, went into a quiet room and practiced a simple breathing technique.
Shockingly, even though the second group worked 40 fewer minutes each shift, they processed more checks with fewer mistakes and, over the course of the study, even had fewer sick days.  This is an amazing testament to the power of consciously taking a break — and this one was just a few minutes!

Make a Plan

When you decide it’s important to take a break, you have to first realistically decide how much time you can devote to it.  If it’s been awhile, start small.  You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how good it feels to even take an afternoon off.  Once you realize the benefits, you may be inspired to carve out longer stretches of time (and if you don’t, no worries — a little break goes a long way.)

Next, take out your calendar and schedule it in.  If it’s something else you really want to get done, it goes into your calendar, right?  You have to make this appointment just as important as a meeting or a client or whatever has been taking up your time.

Finally, you need to follow through.  This sounds so easy, but it’s often the most difficult part.  Remember that taking this time will actually make you more, not less, productive.  Keep it a high enough priority and do whatever you can to keep this appointment with yourself.

CALL TO ACTION:

What has your experience been with taking breaks…or not taking them?  Type your story in the comments section below.

 

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Fay Jones, L.Ac. Stress-Less Specialist

Fay Jones is a Board Certified Acupuncturist and the author of When Stress Makes You Sick. Her undisputed favorite specialty is stress,  stress-reduction and self-care.  Passionate about teaching self-care practice, she believes this is our single most accessible tool for creating optimal health. . . and something that helps us show up and contribute in meaningful ways in our own lives and the lives of everyone we nurture.  _______________________________________________________________________________________

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