Invitations to pause and take a break are all around us.
“Mom, will you play a game of Monopoly with me?” asked my 9-year-old son, Jesse. “Mom, will you come biking with me?” asked my 10-year-old son, Jackson. Even the dog wants to take a mini-play-break, bringing me her stuffed monkey with the hope of a game of tug-of-war together. She will naturally want that playfulness followed by a belly rub. My friend Heidi just sent me an email asking to go for walk together this weekend.
Yesterday I was waiting for a friend’s flight to arrive at the airport. I was going to turn on my computer and work. Instead I got a chai latte, tucked into a comfortable chair, pulled out my journal and wrote for 15 minutes, taking a mini-break in the midst of my busy day of travel, logistics and work.
Take a Break and Recharge!
Mini-breaks are important and help us to recharge in the midst of it all. Taking a break is a proven way to improve your concentration, increase creativity, enhance problem-solving, reduce stress and contribute to your overall health and well-being.
When do you take breaks? Are they scheduled or spontaneous? Do you take breaks each day?
Do you go on longer breaks, mini-retreats where you step away from worries, work and commitments for a few hours or perhaps a few days? Is your time away from work restorative and rejuvenating?
Many of us spend so much time in a stressed, busy or wound-up state that we have forgotten what it feels like to be completely relaxed. We have forgotten what it feels like to take a true break. (Note: checking your email is not a break!)
Relaxation is important because it is how our mind and body replenish and balance. It is essential for stress reduction, and it is one of the key aspects of ensuring our emotional, physical and mental health.
A few years back, I noticed that I rarely got up from my desk in the course of the day. By the end of the day, I often noticed that I felt really tired, as well as stiff and sore from not having moved all day. I decided to change this negative habit. I started doing what I called my “Thrive in 15: mini-break challenge” – taking 15-minute mini-breaks at least twice throughout my day).
Here are some ideas for your own “Thrive in 15: mini-break challenge”. Think of a mini-break as something enjoyable or at least replenishing you can do (or not do, as the case might be) in 15 minutes or less.
25 Ideas for Your Next Mini-Break
- Go for a walk.
- Write in your journal.
- Stretch (do some yoga).
- Meditate (guided or silent).
- Hug someone you love (research shows that a hug that is held for at least 16 seconds is good for your health and releases feel-good endorphins).
- Power nap.
- Shut off the lights and all glowing screens; sit quietly in the dark.
- Do breathing exercises (to relax or energize, depending on how you want to feel).
- Colour (colouring for adults is a new trend, and it can lead to reduced stress) .
- Snuggle your pet (or borrow someone else’s pet).
- Cuddle with your kids (if you have them).
- Read an inspirational book, or a few quotes, to feel inspired.
- Watch a Ted Talk.
- Do something creative – draw a picture, doodle, create a mind map.
- Drink some water, and really notice how this makes you feel nourished and refreshed.
- Walk through a market.
- Stroll through a nearby library.
- Go to a coffee shop and people-watch.
- Play a game. Play can be fun, rejuvenating and good for our health. It can also stimulate your imagination and is proven to help with problem-solving.
- Enjoy mindful moments – pause, observe your thoughts, notice your breath entering and leaving your body, be fully present in the moment. (Do this for a minimum of 5 minutes.)
- Observe your muscles – are they feeling tight and tense or are they relaxed? Do a brief progressive muscle relaxation exercise. (You can Google this term and find scripts for these.)
- Eat a healthy snack and focus on each bite. (Don’t multi-task, just eat with awareness.)
- Swim in a lake, walk along the beach or take a bubble bath. Water soothes and heals; science now shows how being close to water literally impacts how our brains function.
- Throw stones into a pond or river or lake or ocean; watch the ripples spread out over the water; do this again; feel your own stress melt and ripple away.
- Plan a longer break, maybe a day or two, where you can unplug, step away from it all and recharge and replenish over a longer period of time.
Ideally, mini-breaks are quick, restorative and enjoyable. What will you do to replenish and recharge today? Share your favourite mini-break ideas in the comments below. Let’s see if we can get this list up to 100 mini-break ideas! Remember, mini-breaks can offer you big benefits at work and in your personal life too.