Take A Break---For Sanity's Sake

Written by Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC

I've mentioned the effects of stress on this blog many times, and I have a feeling I'll be mentioning it again. And again. 

Stress is ubiquitous, and it can have an enormous impact on our mental, physical, psychological and spiritual health. The research has proven it, and we all pretty much accept that as fact. 

So, in our day-to-day lives, there are endless lists of things to do, and we can be incredibly task-oriented in our society. This task orientation isn't in and of itself bad, but if those tasks become our reason for living and breathing and existing, then we have a problem. 

How many times have you found yourself hunched over your computer, slogging through emails and other online tasks, only to look up and realize that three hours have passed? (I'm guilty as charged!) If this is a portrait of how your days look from time to time, then taking a break is essential. 

How often do you find yourself running from one responsibility to the next, with nary a thought about food, water, rest, using the bathroom, or otherwise caring for your basic needs? As a diabetic, you know that this is a real no-no, but how often do you do just that, ignoring what's really important----you? 

Research has shown that taking a 20-minute break can actually make you more productive than if you continued working without a break. Taking a break eases your mind, reduces stress, and gives you an opportunity to shift the focus onto your own self-care. 

Taking a break can be the traditional coffee break, a walk around the block, a 5--minute stretching session, a trip to the bathroom, or maybe just sitting on the couch in a mindless reverie. Taking a break can mean listening to a favorite song, working on a crossword puzzle, doodling on a piece of scrap paper, or maybe even playing a quick video game to relax (if you happen to find that sort of thing relaxing). A break can mean watching 30 minutes of TV, doing some deep breathing, taking a nap (one of my favorites!), or petting the dog or cat. 

In my book, a break should really be a break from routine, and just remember what's relaxing for one person may be insanely stressful for another (like the above example of a video game). 

The next time you find yourself not knowing how long you've been working non-stop---or if you realize you've been working for hours without a pause---decide to take a break.

One of my favorite breaks from work is to go outside, feel the sun or wind (or rain) on my face, wave my arms around to relax my shoulders and neck, and take some nice, deep breaths. That shot of oxygen and gentle movement can be just enough to "reboot" my hard drive, allowing me to get back to work somewhat refreshed and renewed. 

When you're on a long-distance drive, you often take breaks for the sake of safety, for the sake of hunger, and for the sake of your bladder and tired, cramped muscles. Think about your regular day to day in the same way. There may not be issues of safety involved, but your well-being should be important enough to trigger a break for the sake of your sanity. 

Try a break, and share with me what you did. I'd love to know how you're caring for yourself!