Why We Need Breaks

By Ozlem Aydin

Have you ever gotten stuck in a particular mental area longer than you anticipated? You know the feeling when the answer shouldn’t require as much thought as you’re giving it, but you just can’t seem to identify a solution? This was a recurring pattern for me a few weeks ago. I was spending too much time searching for ideas, until I felt a nudge in my gut telling me I needed to take more breaks.

Sure, most of us take a break here and there to run errands or grab a bite to eat. But are we really taking enough time for ourselves to breathe and collect our thoughts? In my humble opinion, I feel taking breaks throughout the day is a critical part of adulting. How can we expect to be “on” all day without refreshing our brain and giving it the mental stimulation it needs? Or reenergizing our body through movement and letting the oxygen flow?

Integrating breaks throughout the day will do wonders for you. Some benefits are:

Preventing decision fatigue: Yes, this is a real thing. Making frequent decisions throughout the day can take a toll on our reasoning ability. It can cloud our judgement and create brain fog, preventing us from making the best decision because we’re too tired to explore the full context of a situation.

Increased productivity and creativity: Working for long periods of time will elevate our stress levels. When we take breaks throughout the day, we give our brains the ability to replenish the resources and knowledge we’ve collected over the years. It enables us to see things from a fresh perspective that results in new ideas and more efficient work.

Increased health benefits: There are tons of research that shows sitting for long periods of time is not good for your health. Staying mobile and active throughout the day has a positive impact on refueling and energizing your body, mind and soul.

Increased motivation: Motivation to me means being inspired to do better. What helps me stay motivated is taking breaks in the form of weekend getaways or mini vacations as much as possible throughout the year. Changing my scenery from time to time does wonders for my attention span and focus. Seeing and learning new things inspires my creativity and motivates me to apply and share the things I’ve learned with others.

Reflection opportunities: Taking frequent breaks throughout the day also provides an opportunity for reflecting. Take the time to check in with yourself daily to identify any lingering issues or unresolved emotions. This is a great habit to address items in real time and prevent them from resurfacing again in the future.

While you’re implementing breaks throughout the day, try to limit your interaction with the digital world as well. Technology is a great innovation but it’s also addicting and impacts our ability to focus.  Taking breaks from our multiple devices – TVs, laptops and cell phones – helps to lower stress on our body and nervous system. Having less distractions will enable you to concentrate on the task at hand and be more productive.

There is no right or wrong way to take a break. You must listen to your body and do what’s best for you. Identify things that bring you joy and integrate more of that into your daily routine. Find activities that boost your mood and energy, whether that’s taking a walk in nature, reading a book or spending quality time with family and friends. We all have different desires that bring us joy, and we should not be afraid to explore what they are.

Ozlem is a senior management official currently working for the Director of the Office of Communications at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). She’s been employed at the IRS for 16 years, possessing a wide range of experience from the Collections, Engagement & Retention Office and the Strategy and Organizational Improvement Office to name a few.

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Photo credit: BRUNO EMMANUELLE on Unsplash

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