Taking Mental Breaks – A Necessity

By Drue Lawlor, FASID
Director of Coaching at Gail Doby Coaching & Consulting
Photo Credit: @bakerbroductions

Do you remember that wonderful feeling after a particularly relaxing vacation? Wouldn’t it be great to be able to capture that feeling more often than just after a vacation? It’s possible, but like everything else worthwhile, it takes a bit of planning and some effort to stick to the plan!

There is definite evidence showing that taking regular breaks – particularly from mental tasks – improves productivity and creativity, and that same research has proven that eliminating those breaks can lead to stress and exhaustion.

So when you start to use the excuse “I’m too busy” – remind yourself that taking mental breaks actually makes you more creative and more productive. The research behind this fact does not just apply to you as the CEO of your company. Be sure you are including your team in the “mini vacation/creative productivity plan”.

Have a brainstorming session with your team to come up with what they would consider effective mental breaks. To do that you will need to identify what actually feels like a break for everyone. Is it getting out of the office and taking a walk, or taking a power nap or maybe meditating? Or your team may decide that a great mental break would be to do something fun as a team. One team which happens to be all women, sets a date monthly to leave work early on a Friday and go have a manicure/pedicure together. Another team decided that once a month they would have “Ice Cream Fridays” and they take a longer lunch that day to visit their favorite local ice cream shop.

Another team was interested in using meditation for their mental breaks and so they had one of the team members with experience in meditation share that experience with the team and help guide them in effective meditation.

Having your team brainstorm effective mental breaks can be a fun mental break in itself. It’s a way to bring creativity into your workplace – which should be one of your main goals. But let each team member choose what mental break is effective for them and be sure to create an environment where those mental breaks are encouraged. Set an example yourself!

Aim to develop a workplace where team members feel they have the mental space to be creative. Does your workplace shape your team, or does your team shape your workplace? Create a workplace where your team feels they have the freedom to fail, and where team members are rewarded for developing more effective processes and procedures, or creative marketing ideas, etc. This kind of creative workspace also generates the freedom for each team member to discover what is their most effective mental break – whether it be with other team members or on their own.

Change your perspective and that of your team – and follow the advice of Edward de Bono: “Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way.”

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