While it’s tempting to put your nose to the grindstone to get things done, remember that mental concentration works similarly to a muscle in that it becomes fatigued after sustained use and needs a rest break. And, just as taking a rest between workouts or even sets of weights helps to make us stronger, taking recovery breaks during the day will make us more productive.
How often? More than 50 years ago, Dr. Nathaniel Kleitman, one of the researchers who connected REM sleep with dreaming, suggested that our body continually experiences 90-minute cycles in alertness, not only during sleep, but during the day as well. That’s why it’s often suggested that we take a break every 90 minutes or so. Of course, it’s different for different people, and for different types of tasks…the more difficult the tasks, the more often we need to break.
How Long to Break?
Just 5-15 minutes breaks have been shown to reduce fatigue, improve productivity, and reduce risk of errors or accidents.
What To Do During Recovery Breaks?
While it’s tempting to check on social media, watch your favorite show or silly cat video, or play a video game, here are some other activities that are more likely to rest your brain:
- Change the scenery by taking a brief walk (even if it’s just to the bathroom)
- Get up and move (a few flights of stairs, jumping jacks, stretches)
- Change the mood (listen to some meditative music, daydream, or plan your next vacation)
- Shine the light (bright-light therapy is very effective, especially during the winter months)
- Take a mental break (read a fun article or book, or connect with a friend)
- Nourish your body (eat a healthy snack and stay hydrated with plenty of fluids)
- Take a nap (naps are actually more effective than caffeine in rebooting your energy…tell that to your boss…ok, maybe not :))
Stop thinking of taking a break as a “waste of time,” breaks can help you increase your energy, productivity, and your sanity.
Did you enjoy this blog? Here’s another one on the benefits of taking regular recovery breaks.