Taking a break is a crucial part of regular self-care and your well-being that we often overlook in our busy lives. The benefits of taking breaks extend far beyond just reduced stress levels, but still, we manage to choose hours of restless work over our sanity.

Being conscious of the importance of taking work breaks is great, but it's trivial. Setting up a time to sit back, unwind, and actually rest - as ironic as it may sound - is a serious business. Frankly, break from work is one of the best things you can do for yourself. So, today, we'll cloak a little bit of science over our words and rightfully nudge you to take a break. Ready?

Why Do You Need to Take Work Breaks?

Benefits of taking a work break listed on a pink sticky note
Rest is a fine medicine. Let your stomachs rest, ye dyspeptics; let your brain rest, you wearied and worried men of business; let your limbs rest, ye children of toil! - Thomas Carlyle

For starters, taking breathers from work, a study shows, can significantly reduce your stress levels and even help you recover from long periods of stress. A mini-break, lunch break, a day off, vacation time, or even a gap year or career break - Any of these will help your mental health thrive. It’s this absence of work-related demands that fires up our other-than-stress wires and injects a jubilant dose of life into our veins.

If you're feeling drained at work, detaching from work over lunchtime might be just enough. According to a study by Korpela, Kinnunen, Geurts, de Bloom, and Sianoja, a break in a day can spike up your energy levels and pare down your work exhaustion. What's better, the study found that not skipping lunch breaks led to higher energy levels and a sense of vigor in the long haul.

Moreover, breaking a vicious stress cycle carries life-bolstering effects all around. A chronically strained brain struggles to remember, is less creative, and is as sharp as an inflatable balloon. Break from work, in all its diversity, has a record of not getting along with stress all too well. So be sure you'll reap the long-term benefits of a stress-free brain - better cognition, mood, sense of well-being and health.

Lastly, in a systematic review of 22 studies on micro-breaks, researchers found that taking short 10-minute pauses in work boosts productivity and mental health. While longer breaks stack up to do wonders, short bouts have also been shown to increase performance in creative individuals. Bottom line? Take a break. Work-life balance is not just something you read about on our blog.

Red Alerts That Show You're Craving Breaks

A red flag on the beach giving a warning sign
  • You struggle to stay focused. Especially as the day drags on, you experience increasing difficulty concentrating.
  • Body stiffness. Each time you stand up you notice an obvious body torpor and sluggishness you can't shake.
  • Afternoon fatigue. Feeling like anything but work after a lunch break is a clear sign of lack of physical activity breaks.
  • Lack of motivation. Maybe there are other reasons you're not feeling it, but if the sensation drags on, it might be a sign of work exhaustion.
  • Anxiety and nervousness. Running a cogwheel without the break system will annoy ants in your pants. Lack of movement also imprisons the excess energy you need to get rid of.
  • Prickly behavior. If little things are bothering and sidetracking your mental clarity, you might want to step away from work.
  • Cynicism. Maybe it's your drive for perpetual work capacity that's created views that others are selfish, making the world a greedy, corrupt place.
  • Experiencing burnout. Burnout is not normal. If you're often on a brink of yet another fire cycle, and assuming it's business as usual, you need to rest and think again.
  • Poor sleep and restlessness. Maybe it's restless work that's disrupting your sleep. Maybe the lack of sleep hijacked your clear thinking. Maybe it's both and you're in a loop. (A nice Bedtime Exercise routine could help)
  • Using addictive substances and habits. Alcohol, social media, compulsive behavior, and bitting your nails - these can be due to feelings of overwhelm or disengagement.
  • Social isolation. Might also be a telling sign of a nervous build-up and uninterrupted tension.

What Work Breaks Should You Take and When?

When it comes to taking work breaks, it's important to remember that they're not a luxury or thing you just suggest to friends yet don't take yourself. Ladies and gents, we bring you four take-a-break options to consider to recharge your batteries to an optimum.

  • Micro breaks
  • Social breaks
  • Vacation
  • Career breaks
A young man lying in the grass feeling relaxed

#1 Micro Breaks

The easiest break from work in the bunch is the one we take the least. It's called micro-break. Not because the micro percentage of people take break from work but rather due to their duration. Yup, they're short and sweet and destined to save us from sedentary downturns.

According to a new research review on "micro-breaks," if you take a break for just 10 minutes or less it can significantly boost your feeling of content. Published in the journal PLOS ONE, the review analyzed 22 studies with over 2,300 participants and found that those who took micro-breaks from work had an above 50% better chance of feeling more energetic and less fatigued. Patricia Albulescu and Coralia Sulea, the study's authors and researchers at the West University of Timisoara in Romania, suggest that taking these short breaks subscribes you to the list of benefits.

Frankly, in our years of experience serving people with physical micro-break follow-alongs, that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Make them fun and physical!

A young woman singing and having fun while at work break

The real gems are found at the physical level of these shorter breaks. Are you familiar with the term "sedentary hazard"? Yes? Well, the thing is, it may be looming over your seated bum too.

The phenomenon refers to the damaging effects of sitting for prolonged periods of time, which can include chronic aches and pains such as lower back pain, neck problems, muscle soreness and stiffness, and headaches. But did you know that most of these hazards can be fully eliminated with just 60 to 75 minutes of physical activity each day? That's according to a study done by the University of Cambridge. It's a positive message - one claiming that the N0.1 physical health risk that claimed all the rage can be Chuck-Norrised back into a chasm.

Here are a pair of the picks from our exercise hub to fill up your break from work and to start you off on a jubilant spree.

Get Floored! 7 Physical Activity Breaks From a Low Perspective
Physical activity breaks done on the floor add versatility to your workday options. Plus, they’re good for soothing back aches and strengthening your core. Who could ask for more?!
16 Chair Yoga Poses For Beginners
Do you ever look at your work day in retrospect? Not in a task-done, meetings-held kind of way. Rather how your body moved throughout the screen-heavy humdrum? If you have, you might have noticed that you have a tendency to mold into in one position. At best, you routinely switch

#2 Team-up Breaks

Aka shared lunchtime breaks; meet-ups over a coffee; shared stroll; a themed zoom call; ping-pong break from work; or just a good old sandwich-munching canteen gathering. Each of these socially-rich breaks conspires to replenish your verve. Believe us on this one, chatting with the peers you're fond of in a laid-back setting can go a long way!

Oh, how sweet these can be, really... just remember that one time you felt a sense of relatedness, belongingness, and being a part of a team. Maybe a time when a colleague shared an oh-my-giggle or a heart-warming story. Even a moment when all your peers (you included) shared a struggle and managed to get over it together. Not only do social breaks breathe life into our otherwise mundane routines, but they also leave us feeling recovered and rejuvenated in our daily life.

To ensure these band-togethers are well-received and soul-renewing, make sure you:

  • Make a Slack/Teams group where you share memes and activity invites
  • Schedule the time in your team calendar so everyone's serious about coming
  • Anticipate the pleasure by sending links to topics you know you all enjoy or have chit-chatted about
  • Pay attention to how you feel afterward and act in accordance with it

#3 Vacation Time

A happy woman bridging over to a lake castle on her vacation

The thing we all love so much but dodge like it's a fireball.

That's the harsh reality of living in a "No-vacation Nation". Yes, there are plenty of reasons to label a country that bears red-and-white stripes as such. For starters, the required yearly time off in the US mandated by the state is 0, and it's neither a letter (O) nor a typo. It's a number and it's spelled z-e-r-o.

Compare that to countries across borders and continents, and it will probably shoulder-bump your nervy, uptight, bajiggity self.

(Source: Center for Economic Policy and Research)

Still, employers, in their own rights, have found yet another reason to trick the state. They rebelliously chose to offer a chance to take a break in form of vacation [labor statistics source]. Actually, the majority of them grant time off to 90% of their full-time employees. However, and this is the most unsettling insight, even when the US workforce gets a paid vacay, they don't use all of it. Worse, they sprinkle some work on top of what should be a carefree period.

This is a problem. No wonder why we struggle nationwide to relieve stress and why the bad mood is served as often as a morning coffee. And chances are you've also taken a seat at the wrong part of the chart.

To knock yourself out of the ME time drought and use your mental health days, we suggest you try the following once you decide to take a break:

  1. Be collegial with your work comrades. Leaving stuff behind in this case won't release the weight off of your emotional baggage. In fact, work leftovers will pull an invisible string knotted to your fanny over the entire work break. Once you're back, remember you're still in a same company. To mitigate the pre-vacay anxiety, try to compensate in advance for the break period, delegate a couple of vital duties, and help everyone understand potential issues that may arise in your absence.
  2. Schedule at least 3 months ahead. This increases your chances of actually going on a work break. Construal level theory suggests that the closer you schedule your vacation to the present moment, the less likely you are to actually take it or enjoy it without work interruptions. Also, the more prone you are to bumps in time management.
  3. Take at least 5 business days. Add two weekends and you're in for the full 9 days. When you take a break, knowing you're at least a week out will give you enough mental ease to enjoy your time for self-reflection and joy without work-jitters.
  4. Change the environment. In other words, run and enjoy life! Book a flight, plan a road trip, visit your family abroad, go on a solo adventure. Whatever you do, unplug and recharge! Even if it's a financially sound staycation - and we're not against it - at least try to get away from your home and plan your daily activities or short trips. Staying passive in your usual environment may not help you unchain the work locks.
  5. Focus on rest. Developing new skills, pondering about starting your own business, perhaps about future employers, the working world... while it all aligns help you gain perspective, the focus of your vacation should be the rest. To somehow pull the breaks on your perpetual thinking machinery.

#4 Taking a Career Break

A red-haired woman taking a career break

Taking a career break, aka Adult Gap Year, is great but it's not all rainbows, daisies, and baby carrots. They are terrific, as these lengthy pause buttons can aid your mental health, help you gain a new perspective, feed your curiosity, and free time to nurture a passion you were afraid you'd put off until your chances at reincarnation. On the other hand, as much as career breaks are great, employers and hiring managers cast a skeptic eye. You know, they tend to spy for the reasons behind the length of career gap, like any signs of fickleness or professional unpredictability.

But, fret not! With a little bit of planning ahead, you can pull it off. In fact, there's a high chance that with a career break you'll plunge right into welfare - not the financial, but the life-prosperous kind!

In case you're still chewing over inspiring stories you read online - but dare not to take it - let's serve you with all the right reasons to go for a career break.

  • Chronic stress from a full-time job
  • Rethinking career goals
  • Reflecting on years of career progress and personal experiences
  • Spending quality time with loved ones
  • Expecting a child or duties in family life
  • Career change, new career path, or planning longer job search
  • Seeking a higher Uni degree
  • Planning important volunteer work

If you're looking to get the scoop on how to recharge with a piece of mind, here's how to plan career breaks ahead.

The first step to take is to increase your savings. Being financially stable when you take a break is important. Next, (1) create a detailed schedule to ensure that you have a well-structured plan of how you intend to spend your time off work. (2) Inform your employer early enough when you are planning to take a career break, as it will give them enough time to make necessary arrangements. While on your break, (3) utilize the time for professional and personal development by learning new skills for a new career, enrolling in online courses, building healthy habits, reading good books, making new connections, and staying active. Lastly, (4) maintain your professional network in an employment gap to ensure that you don't lose touch with your colleagues, prospective employers, and industry trends. At one point you'll be wanting to send a cover letter and keeping in touch with industry will help to show some authority in a future job interview.

Key Takeaways

  • Break from work is proven to bring mental and physical benefits
  • Taking Micro Breaks of 10 minutes or less can significantly boost well-being. Physical micro-breaks can also help eliminate the effects of sedentary hazards.
  • Team-up Break from work with peers can replenish verve, helping you to feel connected and rejuvenated.
  • Vacation time should be a norm you religiously stick to!
  • Career breaks are great for recharging but must be planned in advance to ensure financial and emotional ease of mind.

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