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You May Want To Rethink Breaks In The Short And Long Run.

Updated: Aug 10, 2021

Some of us are great at listening to our mind and body and just knowing when it is time to take a break. We instinctively know it’s time to get up from our desk and stretch, move away from screens and give our eyes a break, or go refuel.

But how many of us are good at recognizing we need a change of scenery, routine or a new adventure prior to feeling stressed or burnt out?

Often times burn out can be prevented, whether it is burn out and stress due to normal routines and responsibilities, or due to lack of challenge and variety.

One thing for sure, most of us do really well just taking breaks in the short run and planning and executing breaks/ time off in the long run.

So how do we know how many breaks we need in a day? Or, how much time we should be taking off annually?

A good friend shared with me recently an anecdote he saw… a European’s voicemail message that stated, “taking the summer off, see you in September”, verses an American’s message which was, “going in for kidney surgery- should be available within a couple of hours”.

The reality is many other countries get it right – they understand and build into their culture and expectations, that humans need time to rest, play and rejuvenate.

Only you can know how much break time you need in a day to feel and function at your best. Too often we think we have to “keep going” and “grind it out” in order to be productive.

However for most of us, taking frequent breaks means we give our brain a break, and can come back to our tasks with renewed energy and perspective. This often helps us to creatively problem solve and actually be more efficient in our roles and responsibilities.

Here’s some ideas for you in the short run:

  1. BE WILLING TO EXPERIMENT- With how many breaks you need in a day and for how long. Some people can feel refreshed by just getting up and taking a ten minute walk. Others need time away from their computer for fifteen or twenty minutes. Try some different options and see what you notice.

  2. TELL YOURSELF A MORE ACCURATE STORY- So that you don’t stay stuck in the “I gotta keep working” mindset. Rather speak truth, which may sound like,” when I take a few breaks throughout the day, I can actually become more productive.”

  3. PLAN YOUR BREAKS - Consider what you will do, when and where you will take your breaks, so you don’t waste minutes trying to figure it out. Think about things you can do to rejuvenate in just 5-10 minutes. You might even come up with a list and then refer to it just before break times.

  4. PAY ATTENTION- Pay attention to the signs your body and brain give you that it is time for a break. Rather than tell yourself “I don’t have time” use this time to listen and respond accordingly. Do you need food, fresh air or just a change of scenery?

And for the long run…

  1. PLAN YOUR NEXT LONG WEEKEND- This does not have to cost an arm and a leg either. Some people do well with a staycation- they can stop themselves from doing the endless list of projects and tasks and make plans to recreate and relax. Many people enjoy several day trips to reduce costs or rejuvenate in nature by camping or hiking.

  2. RESEARCH AND PLAN YOUR NEXT VACATION- A change of actual scenery away from where we spend most of our days can be exhilarating and provide a great opportunity for excitement and adventure. Many people think they don’t have time for “a real vacation” however they can be extremely beneficial for your health and overall wellbeing.

  3. CONSIDER WHAT PLACES AND ACTIVITIES FEEL EXCITING OR REJUVENATING FOR YOU By taking time to consider if you are needing a more rejuvenating or more relaxing experience, or some of both can inform your decisions about where to go and what you might do there. Look at how you might also incorporate more of those things into your daily or weekly life so that you can do them more frequently. Perhaps you choose to go on a cycling trip… how might you add more cycling to your weekly calendar? By pausing and taking time to consider how you refresh, both in the short and the long run can make a world of difference in how you feel and function also in the short term and long run. As I write, I am nestled snuggly in our RV Trailer listening to the pitter patter of raindrops as they dance around our rooftop. The rejuvenation of being in nature invites feeling more calm, peaceful and connected. That’s a big payoff for a short trip away.


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