Take a Break, Skip the Guilt

Dr. Julie T. Kinn is a Clinical and Research Psychologist at the National Center for Telehealth & Technology (T2).

We’d all like to arrive at work and then be productive and brilliant for eight hours straight.  Unfortunately, until the robots take over, this is an unlikely scenario. We humans just aren’t made for all work and no play. For a day or two we can keep up an intense pace, usually during times of high stress. However, during normal operational tempo, we all need to take breaks.

A five minute breather is not just normal… it’s healthy. Allowing yourself a break can reduce the flight-or-fight response that reduces immunity and raises blood pressure. Breaks can help with productivity, too. If you are struggling with solving a tough problem, sometimes letting your mind off the task can help you figure out the answer.

Procrastination is a problem when you start using breaks to avoid your work. Quick check: Are you feeling guilty about reading this blog instead of working? If yes, then maybe your procrastination has become an issue.

I encourage you to take breaks in a way that is meaningful. If you plan ahead how to spend a bit of free time, then you can choose activities that are fulfilling and restful. You can also use your breaks as an incentive. Try these four steps:

  1. Make a brief list of the activities you could do during a ten minute break (my list includes “take a walk,” “read a chapter of a good book,” or “play Angry Birds“).
  2. Set a reasonable goal such as, “I will work for 60 minutes and then I will take a break.”
  3. Get down to business. If your computer mouse starts straying toward Facebook, just remind yourself that the time for a break will come soon.
  4. Enjoy a well earned, guilt-free session of shooting birds at pigs.