Has your work life changed during the pandemic? For many of us, the answer is yes. You may be putting in long days working from home instead of commuting to the office. Or you may still be traveling to work and putting in longer shifts.
“Many people are experiencing extreme fatigue and stress at work. No matter where you are based, it is important to take breaks during the day. By stepping away from your job for even a short time, you can reduce your anxiety and improve your productivity,” says Farvah Fatima, M.D., a family medicine physician at Henry Ford Health.
Here Dr. Fatima explains the benefits of taking a break, ways you can recharge your mind and body, and how scheduled breaks help you maintain healthy habits.
The Benefits Of Taking A Break
Some people may fear that taking a break while working will impact their job performance. According to Dr. Fatima, the opposite is true.
“Research has shown that working long hours without any breaks can lead to cognitive decline over time. When you don’t take time to rest your body and mind, you can fall into a continuous cycle of feeling exhausted and anxious,” she says. “As you work, your brain cells are constantly activated. Taking a break gives you the chance to rest, refocus and recharge,” she says.
Stepping away from work can help you:
- Gain a broader perspective: It’s easy to become too focused on completing a particular task or dealing with a frustrating issue. When you take a break, you can reflect and recognize how your work efforts fit into a bigger picture.
- Find new solutions: During a break, you have time to step back and process information. With reflection, you may find new ways to approach a challenging issue or solve a problem.
- Boost creativity: By refocusing your attention away from work, you may find new and creative approaches to your work tasks when you return.
- Control your emotions: If you are overly stressed at work, you can become less productive. What’s more, your feelings may affect your ability to function in other parts of your life. Taking regular breaks during work hours allows you to calm your emotions and develop a plan for moving forward with less anxiety.
- Restore your energy: Just as marathon runners need to recover before the next race, you need to take time to slow down and recharge before moving ahead with your workday.
3 Ways To Take Recess At Work
Just like children need periods of recess during their school days, Dr. Fatima recommends working adults take a short break every hour or two throughout the workday for similar reasons. Ways you can recharge during a break include:
- Get moving: There are many ways to add fitness and movement into your daily routine. Take a short walk in your office area or outside. If you sit while working, get up and stretch your muscles. And don’t forget to invest in ergonomic office furniture to support good posture and reduce strain on your back and neck.
- Make a social connection: Take time to socialize with coworkers, family members or friends. If you can’t meet someone in person, make a phone or video call to connect. These social connections can boost your mood and refresh your attitude when you return to work.
- Practice mindfulness: Whether taking a walk outside or sitting in a quiet space, appreciate your surroundings. By refocusing your attention and energy on something other than work, you can give yourself a mental break.
Scheduling Breaks Leads To Healthy Habits
“While many of us know that taking breaks is important, we don’t always follow that advice. Scheduling breaks into your day makes them part of your routine,” says Dr. Fatima. “Scheduling your daily activities helps make time to maintain other healthy habits, such as eating a healthy diet, managing your weight and getting adequate sleep.”
Healthy lifestyle habits can enhance your performance at work. So make unwinding a priority. Be creative and experiment with other ways to reduce stress during the day.
Most importantly, when you are tired or stressed, take time to care for yourself. You’ll reap the benefits by improving your overall health.
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Dr. Farvah Fatima is a family medicine doctor who sees patients at Henry Ford Medical Center – Farmington Road.