I was recently out to lunch with a colleague and I posted an Instagram story of my delicious meal, along with a poll question asking who else loved these types of breaks, followed by two options: “Yes I love them!” or “I never take my break.” When I saw the majority of the responses picked that they loved their breaks, I was so excited to see that the majority of my followers actually took their breaks. So, I did what any other Instagramer would do and I posted the results to my story, praising everyone for their self-care. It wasn’t until I received an overwhelming number of DMs stating that just because they love these types of breaks doesn’t mean they actually take their breaks that I realized my poll results were not an accurate representation of their reality. I was shocked! So, I posted a PSA rant on my story about the importance of taking breaks, which then inspired me to write this post about why taking your breaks is one of the most important forms of self-care you can do for yourself.
In all honesty, I used to be the person who never took my breaks either. Working for a busy agency, where I was booked with back-to-back clients, just never seemed like an environment where I could take a break. My to-do list was never-ending and I viewed my breaks more as a time to catch up on work vs. actually taking a break from the work. We all know how that ended, right? I was burnt out, stressed, overwhelmed, and exhausted. And I can sit here and blame the agency all I want for my feelings of exhaustion but the reality is I had a choice and I chose wrong. The agency did allow for me to plug my breaks into my schedule. I just decided catching up on work was more important than my own self-care. Was the work draining at times? Sure. But again, I didn’t do a good enough job of advocating for myself and my needs, mainly because my priorities were not in order at the time. I valued my work more than I valued myself and honestly, this kind of “work ethic” was highly regarded and praised by others. So, I thought I was doing the “right” thing, even if I felt drained in the process. What I quickly realized was that not taking care of myself would impact my work regardless….and not in a good way.
So, if you are someone who also works through your breaks, keep reading to learn about the benefits of taking your breaks as well as ways you can actually allow yourself to take the breaks.
4 Major Benefits of Taking Your Break
- Improved Mental Health: We are not meant to work 8-12+ hours straight without stopping. How can we? At some point, our brain is going to stop functioning at its full capacity because of pure exhaustion. This constant go-go-go mentality that so many of us have can lead to stress, anxiety, feeling overwhelmed, burnt out, as well as poor frustration tolerance. Taking a break is going to allow for you to give your mind and body a well deserved rest. It doesn’t matter if it’s 10mins, 30mins, or an hour. A break is a break. Stepping away from your work and recharging for a moment is going to help reduce all of those negative feelings you may be experiencing as well as improve upon your overall happiness and wellness.
- Fewer Mistakes: If you are working non-stop, you start to work on autopilot, meaning you start to just go through the motions instead of actually being mindful and present of the work you are doing. This will lead to more mistakes or a less than stellar performance, which ultimately ends up leading to more work to do in the future since you didn’t do what you needed to do correctly in the first place. Taking a break and stepping away from the work is going to allow for you to let your brain rest and recharge. It is going to allow for you to see or do something else aside from the task you just spent endless amount of time working on, over and over again. If you start to utilize your breaks more effectively, you’ll likely see an improvement in your work performance.
- Improved digestion: I remember the days where I would shove lunch in on my “lunch break” -> AKA sitting in front of my computer, answering countless emails or doing what felt like endless paperwork, while mindlessly eating and literally shoving whatever I had for lunch that day into my mouth so I could be over and done with “lunch” and back to work. Looking back, I can’t believe I lived like that. I can’t believe I ALLOWED myself to live like that. It’s no wonder my digestion was horrendous and I consistently felt sick, tired, bloated, and sluggish. I didn’t allow myself to be mindful or present in my eating which ended up having a lot of negative health effects for me. If your only break for the day is your lunch break, TAKE IT. Your body needs to be nourished. Your brain needs you to be nourished. You need to allow yourself that time to eat..and just eat. Without emails, phone calls, or meetings.
- Improved Moral: Improving office moral is one of the biggest struggles those in administrative positions encounter. It’s true that we can’t make everyone happy all of the time, but there are certainly things we can do to help. One of those things is allowing staff to actually take their breaks. When people actually stop working and do something for themselves, even if it’s as simple as walking outside and breathing for a moment, incredible things happen. People stop feeling so resentful towards their work. They stop dreading their day ahead when they know they will actually be allowed to take their breaks. Their mood improves. Their customer service skills improve. All of these improvements lead to improved office/work moral, which in turn leads to a more productive work environment. If you are someone who hates your job and wakes up everyday dreading having to go in, take a moment to evaluate whether or not this has to do with your breaks. Are you taking them? Are you being encouraged to take them? If the answer to those questions are “no,” then now is the time to implement change. If you are reading this and you are in a position of authority at your workplace, take a moment to reflect on whether or not you are actually encouraging and allowing your staff to take their much deserved breaks. If not, same thing, changes needs to be made or you are going to continue to experience poor moral and high turnover.
Tips on HOW to Actually Take Your Break
- Step 1: PLUG BREAKS INTO YOUR SCHEDULE! Make sure you know what you are legally allowed to take each day based on the number of hours you work. If you don’t know, read your employee handbook, ask your administrator, or check with your HR department. Once you know how much time you’re allowed to take, plug those breaks into your schedule. This is so effective because putting them into your schedule means you are prioritizing that time for yourself. You are making a statement that your break is more important than the million and one other things you could be doing with your time. Also, plugging it into your schedule improves the likelihood of you actually taking the break.
- Step 2: Stop making excuses. Been there, done that. So I know how this goes. You can absolutely talk yourself out of anything, especially stopping in the middle of a very busy work day to take a break. We live in a culture where taking a break is almost frowned upon, as if you are not working as hard as you should be or something. And my question is, WHY??! When did this shift happen? When did we become so focused on work productivity that we allowed our own health and happiness to diminish in the process? This is NOT ok! You need a break. End of story. There is a reason billion dollar companies such as Google set their work environment up in a way which promotes self-care because the reality is, burning yourself out is not going to improve productivity.
- Step 3: Talk to your superiors if you are feeling uncomfortable about taking breaks. Again, we live in a society where breaks are frowned upon, so it may seem scary to actually take your breaks as you may worry about the repercussions this could have with your superiors. Remember, you are LEGALLY allowed to have a break. So, it’s important to share your concerns with your superiors in an effort to not only reduce your own anxiety around this, but also have a discussion with them around the best ways to implement breaks into your schedule to ensure you are still meeting your work demands as well.
- Step 4: Unplug and step away from your office. The best break is to physically break from your office. Go for a walk. Eat your lunch in another room, or depending on the length of your break, leave the office completely and go out to lunch. Go outside and get some fresh air, even if it’s just for a few moments. Sit in your car. Try your best to physically remove yourself from your work. If physically leaving is not an option based on your setting and you need to stay in your office, then shut your door if applicable. Limit distractions by giving yourself quiet time. Turn off your computer or phone. Let your calls go to voicemail during this time period. Put ear buds in, even if you’re not listening to anything, as people will think twice before interrupting you. Let your co-workers know you’re going on break and ask for some privacy during this time. Whatever it is you need to do to get that time for yourself, do it!
- Step 5: Find a buddy! If you enjoy spending time with your co-workers, find a lunch buddy! Find someone who takes their break when you do and plan lunch dates, even if they are still in the office. Sometimes spending time with your colleagues in a non-work capacity can be fun and relaxing, so if this is the case for you, find a lunch buddy and keep each other accountable when it comes to taking your breaks, even on the days you can’t break together.
- Step 6: Accept that your to-do list will ALWAYS have something on it. This was by far the hardest lesson I ever learned as I was that person who was determined to get EVERYTHING done on my to-do list, even if it killed me. But, the reality is, we are never going to get everything done. It’s just not possible. We may have days where we are more productive than others, but there will always be something to do. So, if you’re not taking a break in an effort to tackle your to-do list, spoiler alert, the extra half hour of work (which is probably not your best performance anyways since you’re likely so drained) isn’t going to make a world of difference. So, stop stressing the stuff you need to get done and instead, shift your mindset to needing to take care of YOU first.
I know, I know. This sounds too good to be true, right? How can something as simple as taking your lunch break make a big enough impact on your work happiness? It’s so important to highlight that some of the BIGGEST changes happen when we take SMALL steps towards those goals. So, this is one small, yet effective, step you can take to improve your overall wellbeing. Think about it, we spend the majority of our time at work, so we need to be taking care of ourselves in the process. I am not saying miraculous changes will occur overnight, but if you continue to implement breaks into your day-to-day routine, you will absolutely start to notice an improvement.
And remember, I’ve been there. I was in a fast-paced, high-stress setting where breaks were laughable. But I made the decision to make changes. I decided to advocate for my needs. I switched my mindset. And you can, too. So, what changes are YOU going to start making for yourself?
I would LOVE to know what spoke to you today and encourage you to comment below and share with me!
If you are interested in learning more about my therapy services, check out my website HERE. Seeking mental health services can be daunting and if you are finding my posts resonate with you, it is likely you are feeling ready to take that next step to work on leading a happier, healthier life! I would LOVE to support you in starting this journey and welcome you to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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