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The importance of taking breaks at work

man in a seated yoga poseMental health is an important part of your overall health. But mental health doesn’t always get the priority that it needs, especially at work. Finding small ways to take breaks for your mental health at work can help you feel better and be more productive.

Why you should take breaks at work

According to the Harvard Business Review, around 59% of employees report feeling burned out, with engagement also falling. Engagement is how connected employees feel to their job. Both burnout and low engagement lead to lower productivity. Meaningful breaks during the day can help you recharge and come back to work with a fresh mind.

Here are some of the benefits of taking breaks:

  • Less stress
  • Lower feelings of burnout
  • Better productivity
  • Better focus
  • Helps prevent ergonomics-related health problems

Additionally, an Applied Ergonomics paper found that skipped or interrupted breaks at work were related to physical and mental health complaints from employees. So, when you do take a break, try to find ways to ensure you can enjoy a full break without being interrupted. Setting up specific break times may help you set boundaries to protect your time.

How to take a break

Doing the right kind of activities during breaks can help you come back to work feeling refreshed. But some break-time activities can further the feeling of burnout. There are a lot of factors that come in to play when thinking of the right way to take a break. The length, time of day and location of your break are all factors that can affect the quality of your break.

Here are some ideas on what you can do on your breaks to help you recover.

Stretch and stand

Many people will likely go through long periods of sitting before they get up and move. Even standing up and doing a few simple stretches for five minutes can help improve circulation, posture and stress. The Mayo Clinic offers some helpful videos on stretches you can do while at your desk.

But it’s even better if you can step away from your desk to help your mind relax and avoid distraction. You can set reminders on your phone or use apps to help remind you to stand up every hour and stretch.

Get light exercise

Finding ways to get a little extra movement into your day can have benefits for your physical and mental health. Whether that’s going to the gym on your lunch break or going for a short walk, exercise is an effective way to relieve stress and support your overall health.  

Do something you enjoy

Taking your attention away from your current work task to do something you enjoy can be an effective way to reduce stress. Find some time to read a few pages from a book, work on a puzzle, or call a family member or friend. Doing something unrelated to work on your break can help you feel more refreshed.

Eat mindfully

Keep yourself fueled throughout the day with well-balanced meals and snacks. A healthy snack in between meals can help promote better concentration and energy levels. Choose a snack that has some protein and carbohydrates to help curb your hunger.

Additionally, when eating your snack or meal, try to step away from a screen so you can eat your food mindfully. Eating in front of a screen or phone can distract you from noticing when you are full or cause you to eat too fast. Taking the time to eat slowly and pay attention to your food can help you slow down and be present.

More wellbeing tips

For more tips on how you can improve your health and wellbeing, check out our Blue Bulletin blog. There you’ll find information on managing your health and wellbeing, as well as helpful information about health insurance.

Written by: Carly Metcalf, a registered dietitian and wellbeing coach at Blue Cross of Idaho, and Melissa Carpenter, a wellbeing coach at Blue Cross of Idaho.

Carly has a Bachelor of Science in nutrition and dietetics and focuses on providing education and support to empower people so they can reach their health and nutrition goals.

Melissa has a degree in exercise science and is nationally certified in both personal training (NSCA-CPT) and wellness coaching (ACE). She has nearly 20 years of experience in the health promotion industry, focusing on wellbeing coaching. 

Posted: February 9, 2024