Your brain is a muscle.
Okay, it’s not. But there is a strong case for treating it like one. Like a muscle, it needs sleep, water, exercise, rest, and nutrients. How you rest your brain determines its recovery time and your long-term output over the course of the day.
An athlete in a gym doesn’t pummel their muscles for eight straight hours. This would lead to injury and would cripple them in the long run. Instead, they work in spurts and take rest in between — and this is exactly how you should be treating your brain.
Here are five effective tips for how to take a break during your workday.
1. Take More of Them
You’re a working adult, and your brain isn’t limited to one 15-minute recess. Set yourself up to work in bursts with breaks in between.
One effective method is the Pomodoro technique, which this online timer will help you stick to. With it, you’ll do four rounds of 25 minutes working, with five minutes taking a break. Then you’ll take a 30-minute break and repeat the cycle.
If you find you do better with a longer stretch of work, try the 52–17 method: that’s 52 minutes working, 17 minutes taking a break.
2. Relax Your Mind
Ever wonder why you sometimes figure out a problem when you’re not even thinking about it? Scientists have found that when we daydream, our minds are actually in problem-solving mode. The relaxation of daydreaming allows your brain to connect dots and deliver precious insights.
Don’t bog down your headspace by scrolling social media, watching videos, or texting. Instead, move away from virtual space entirely during your breaks.
Tying in closely with #2 but deserving its own section altogether is meditation. Meditation can be as short as a minute.
By meditating during your breaks, you are refocusing your mind and body and pulling yourself back to the present. It can have a similar effect as starting your workday over again — a chance to reset your mind and lower the baseline noise level in your head.
4. Do Something Physical
While the “Sitting Is the New Smoking” fad is overblown, it’s true that movement and physical activity throughout the day boost your productivity and health. During your breaks, take a walk or do a short exercise routine. Stretching is another way to release endorphins and increase your focus.
5. Eat Healthy Snacks
It’s amazing how many slumps in energy are attributable to too little water and food. Your brain is a power hog, comprising just 2 percent of your mass but consuming 20 percent of your energy. Use your breaks to eat healthy snacks and hydrate. This will help sustain your energy throughout the workday and prevent overeating at lunch, which can cause mid-afternoon sleepiness.
MacKay, Jory. “7 Science-Backed Ways to Take Better Breaks.” Zapier, Zapier, 31 Mar. 2019, zapier.com/blog/better-breaks/.
“Secret of the Most Productive People – Breaking.” DeskTime Insights, 14 May 2018, desktime.com/blog/17-52-ratio-most-productive-people.