Monday, August 6, 2012

For goodness sakes, take a break!

Eating at your desk is not taking a break.
It’s 11 a.m. and you have been working diligently since 8:30 a.m. sitting at your computer, answering phones, and greeting visitors with an occasional swivel of your chair to access items on and around your work space.  At lunchtime, you, like many other people in the world, will be sitting at your desk eating. After lunch, you will resume your rigorous work day until 5 p.m. (that’s if you’re not working overtime). If this scenario closely describes a typical day in your life, keep reading if you want to save your sanity, be healthier, and be more successful in your job. 

In an article entitled, Sitting All Day: Worse for you than you think, Epidemiologist Steven Blair, a professor of public health at the University of South Carolina say, “If you're sitting, your muscles are not contracting, perhaps except to type. But the big muscles, like in your legs and back, are sitting there pretty quietly, and because the major muscles aren't moving, metabolism slows down.”1 This is why at certain times of the day it feels like you have run out of gas or you feel run down and need an energy drink to make it through the rest of the day. 

Here are 3 reasons why you should take a break

1. You will be able to think more clearly. A supervisor once said to me, “I think best when I am not thinking directly.” She would take a break when she started feeling fatigued or “eye exhaustion.” Eye exhaustion is what you feel when you are staring at a monitor for hours. Blurred vision, squinting eyes, and red and/or watery eyes are signs of eye exhaustion. The supervisor would leave her office for about 10 minutes. Upon her return, she would be ready to continue with her work and can now refocus on the task.  It’s as if she has hit the “reset button” on her brain. 

2. Reduce stress levels.  On those days when you have reached your peak and it feels like you are going to implode, which will eventually lead to an explosion, politely excuse yourself from the environment and take a walk outside, around the building, or to another department. Removing yourself from the environment is going to allow you to “cool down” and think about your next course of action. This also goes back to reason #1. 

3. Breaks are a form of exercise. The word “exercise” frightens people; however, it is not as scary as you think.  Taking a break and moving around will burn calories and reduce physical tension. Here are some easy, non-invasive forms of exercise you can try in your office:
  •  Move files away from you that you don’t use often so that you have to actually get up and go them when needed.
  • Take a different route to the bathroom or go to a bathroom that is not closest to you.
  • Periodically stand up when you are talking on the phone and/or when people enter your workspace.
  • Take the stairs.
  • When bending down, turn it into a lengthy stretch to loosen up the muscles.
Taking a break is like “rebooting your brain.” If you don’t literally have a ball and chain attached to your leg extending from the desk, stop pretending. Get up, walk around for a few minutes, reduce some stress, burn calories, and come back to your office with a cleared head to focus on tasks that require your undivided attention. It will be one of the healthiest choices you could ever make.

1 Neighmond, P. (2011). Sitting All Day: Worse for you than you think. Retrieved from

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