the importance of micro-breaks
(why you shouldn't continually slog on)
In Birmingham it’s school half term — and we are thankful for it. Many of you had it last week and I was ready for it then — I am now very ready! It’s not that I’m not working, I am, for most of it, but we find that having the boys at home (they’re all in their teens) just means the pace slows down a notch or two. One less rush, a chance to pause the after-school clubs and so on.
The weekend before last was a special one too. We were celebrating our dear friend’s 40th, great company, a chance to connect with new friends and old, and real opportunity to slow down. I remember saying to Sam, ‘that felt like a proper weekend’.
What did I mean, a proper weekend?
Well, I think you know what I mean. So often a busy week turns into a busy weekend. Work that still needs to be done, housework and cleaning, the garden, kids’ social lives and sporting fixtures, hosting, cooking, food shopping, helping with homework, doing some nagging, moaning and muttering, etc, *insert own personal circumstances here*. Unless you are in a very privileged few, it is very easy for the weekend to be another opportunity to catch up on all the rest of life. Sometimes that can’t be helped. But I am trying hard to incorporate what I am terming ‘micro-breaks’.
It’s like most things I talk about. It’s easy to dismiss doing anything, or making any change because we can’t do what we’d like to do. ‘I’d like two weeks off all responsibilities, please’ — and when we can’t have that, we end up just doing nothing instead. How about two hours? Isn’t that a start?
I am learning not to decry the micro-break. That might be two hours, or half a day, or a whole weekend if I am really lucky, where I refuel, refill, and reset. Just a little bit. I find that even having two or three hours takes a lot of planning in my life stage, and this may not be the case for you, but, even so — planning some micro-breaks can make all the difference to our ability to keep going for the long haul.
The science of the micro-break
— Our brains need time out of focus mode. They stop functioning if you keep making it concentrate (this may explain why I keep forgetting actual words when I’m working too hard)
— Studies show that doing something else (rather than nothing, or just eating a chocolate bar) is better for our health and gives our brain a break when we get it to do something different (read, a crossword, a quick walk/ change of scenery).
— Our sleep improves when we have even short rest breaks in our work.
— Our bodies need the breaks: it’s good for our backs, our eyes and reduces headaches.
What could be a micro-break for you?
— What would be a reasonable daily micro-break? (for me that’s probably 20 mins)
— A weekly one? (for me that’s two or three hours)
— A monthly one? (maybe a whole day, or whole weekend?)
Walk in the park, lunch with a friend, an exercise class, a chance to do some art, music, creating. Talking with loved ones, taking a nap, reading a book, cooking, running, swimming. It’s your call. But it’s a micro-break that adds fuel to the tank for the rest of the day, the week, the month. I talked to a doctor about this last week, and she said that sometimes she takes really small breaks between patients, she might read just a page of a book, or get up from her chair and do something different, even if just for a few moments. It matters. It does add up.
There will always be more stuff to do.
You won’t clear the decks.
So take fifteen and clear your head, take some time for yourself in the midst of it all, whatever you can manage, and enjoy. The idea of a micro-break is we get ahead of the stress — not break because too much stress has compounded and now we can’t manage. A key tip here — you may need to plan these in. Even though they are small, life is speedy and time is precious. So block out some chunks and get some micro-breaks in your schedule.
To be honest, I’m more ready for the major-break and not just the micro one, but the micro will do for now 🙂
Do let me know what you do for a micro-break, and how you get on with upping the ante this week!