Take a Break

Idle hands are the Devil’s playthings.

What is going to happen if you take ten minutes for yourself? Not much.

It is unlikely that an event of significant magnitude will occur to you, or near you within the next ten minutes. Whatever you are working on will still be there. Nothing of substance will change, but there is time for you to change, and that may make all the difference in the rest of your day.

Duke dropping knowledge.

Duke dropping knowledge.

Taking a break feels vaguely unAmerican.

Shoot, even John Wayne in the 1972 movie, The Cowboys, admonished his charges to: “Hurry it up! We’re burnin’ daylight!” There’s a clip of this classic scene at the end of this post. My favorite part is the kid at the end who groggily admits that he doesn’t see daylight, only stars.

The assumption is that adults know the value of work, but children do not. They must be prodded, cajoled, and threatened; until they learn that rest is for the unmotivated and those lacking strong character. It is not hard to see how decades of this kind of thinking has led to an overly stressed-out workforce and a 30% increase in suicide in young people, since 2000.

According to a survey done by the The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH):

  • 40% of workers reported their job was very or extremely stressful.

  • 25% view their jobs as the number one stressor in their lives.

  • Three fourths of employees believe that workers have more on-the-job stress than a generation ago.

  • 29% of workers felt quite a bit or extremely stressed at work.

  • 26% of workers said they were “often or very often burned out or stressed by their work”.

Most telling? “Job stress is more strongly associated with health complaints than financial or family problems.”

The statistics are clear: We are getting sick in the jobs we work to sustain ourselves and our families.

How can we combat this? How can we work healthier? I suggest building short breaks into your day.

One cup of coffee a day is all my system can handle.

One cup of coffee a day is all my system can handle.

I have two built-in breaks to my working day:

  • 10AM - tea time

  • 2-2:20PM - Cognitive Recovery Period (CRP)

The CRP is fancy, psychology-speak for a nap. Yes, I nap at the office and I’ll defy anyone who tells me I’m not productive. In fact, since I started this practice of office power naps over a year ago, I have seen an increase in productivity. I do not throw back a Grande White Chocolate Mocha from Starbucks, or guzzle a can of Coke. When that dreaded feeling of lethargy hits me around 2 o’clock, I respect that feeling.

By respecting my mind when it tells me it’s tired and taking a nap, I get more energy for the rest of the day. I do not feel as if I am lugging myself to 5PM. Instead, I mosey at a comfortable pace, and I can greet the remainder of my day with enthusiasm.

I am fortunate to have a job that offers me the flexibility to care for my mental health. Not all of my readers may have this luxury, but you are in control of your time outside work. You can build in blocks of time that are entirely for you.

You could really like 80’s music - create a playlist that you can listen to on your ride home.

You might enjoy pleasant aromas - a great, low cost option is to buy scented hand lotion.

Do something that allows you to relax without going numb. No social media scrolling, emails, or TV. Take time for yourself. You may be burning daylight, but you won’t burn yourself out in the process.