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Breaking up is so very hard to do….

Taking regular breaks

Taking regular breaks

Breaking up is so very hard to do. Or so goes the song. Not a very up-beat, life-affirming place to start, especially when we are on the bleak subject of burnout anyway. And since the words of The Walker Brothers song are cheesier than the cheesy vapours emanating from Ian Mellis’ cheese shop, let’s keep the cheesy theme – because of course we are talking here about breaking up your daily routine as a way of addressing some of the risks of burnout. Taking regular breaks, if you will. I knew you’d like that.

Ok, perhaps a more sombre tone is required. Last week we started exploring the importance of paying attention to our bodies, and what they were telling us. Taking regular breaks throughout the day is a natural extension of this, and relates in part to the nature of the much more sedentary, desk-and-computer-bound lives that many of us inhabit.

Burnout can in part result from a misalignment of input and output – you are giving more out than you are taking in. This could be for any number of reasons, including lack of energising, life-giving activities, no time for relaxation, a constant state of electronic availability, energy drainers including chaos and disorganisation, all of which we will dip our toes into in the next few weeks.

But the simple act of taking regular breaks, if only for a few minutes, throughout the work day allows us to stop, reconnect with what we were doing in the first place, and top up our batteries.

Our much needed and relied on electronic devices do not survive for more than a few hours without being plugged into a source of power, so why should the astonishingly complex, multifaceted, highly sophisticated computers that are our brains be any different? Without even considering the impact on the physical vessels of our bodies that house our brains, emotions, and responses.

The key here is to know yourself, and your own rhythms.

  • Are you more of a morning or evening person?
  • When are you at your sharpest and most mentally alert, and what tasks can you prioritise for those sections of the day?
  • Equally, when is your least productive time during the day, and what tasks would more usefully be suited to those times?
  • How long can you work for at full focus before your concentration starts to lapse?
  • For shift workers, this is a whole new challenge, as your biorhythms can be sorely messed with in switching between day and night shift, but probably applies even more.
  • What constitutes a break for you – what short activity would use your mind and body in a completely different way, perhaps allowing dormant, underused muscle groups a chance to wake up a little and engage the opposite side of your brain?
  • What does it mean for you to work smart – to maximise your working patterns to your own rhythms, varying the levels of intensity accordingly with regular position and task changes to allow your body and mind time to recharge. This is not always practical or realistic depending on your work environment and constraints. But the simple act of stopping, changing position, taking a few deep breaths and consciously bringing yourself back to the present can help to ground you in who and where you are.

Taking regular breaks is also important to allow ourselves to ask one of my favourite questions –

So what?

To step back from the task in hand, if only for a few minutes, and remind yourself of the goal and desired outcome

I am doing this, and so what?

What am I hoping to achieve and why?

What is most important here?

What difference is this making, and am I still on track with the original objectives?

So, make it easy on yourself…..(you knew that was coming)….by taking regular breaks throughout your day. Pay attention to your body. Recharge your mind for a few minutes. Reconnect with what you are seeking to do, and why. Your body will thank you for it.


Inspired? Encouraged? Get in touch!

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