Do you ever take a break? You’d be in really bad shape if you didn't. But did you know that you should be taking a break every 90 to 120 minutes? Nice, huh? I bet you’re wondering how you would get anything done too!
Well, research shows that when you take regular breaks you have better mental clarity, better stress release, and your overall performance increases. But they are not breaks any old time. They are specific 20-minute breaks after every cycle and being the amazing machine that it is, the body can be flexible in how long that cycle is just as long as you take the break. Generally though, the cycle runs for 90 to 120 minutes.
It’s called the Ultradian Rhythm and it works continually over a 24-hour period. This rhythm has to do with rest and activity unlike the Circadian Rhythm that manages sleeping and waking. During the day it means that you will perform, at peak, for about 90 minutes before you need a break. And then you will need to take a 20-minute break before getting back to work. During the night the 20-minute break will be the time when you turn over, fix the covers and then sink back into the next 90-minute cycle. The most important fact here is that your body and mind needs to take regular breaks for optimal health.
You will know when you are ready for the break because your mind will start to wander, you’ll yawn, stretch your back, or even get up to stretch your legs. The key to this break during the day is to focus on something completely different. If you were working on accounting issues switch to reading a magazine, taking a stroll, or anything else totally unrelated to accounting. When you come back to the accounts your mind and body will feel refreshed.
If you are in pain, and not doing so already, take the break to rest your body. If you have been active then lie down and listen to some soothing music. If you have not been able to leave the bed try doing an active meditation – one where you follow a guided relaxation. The point is making a change in how you spend the next 20 minutes.
I know, without fail, if I sit too long working on the computer my shoulders start to hurt – a sign for me that my neck is in distress. I have always regretted when I have ignored my need to rest and I usually ended up having to go back to doing the neck exercises given to me by my physiotherapist. I’ve learned my lesson and now set a timer and even if I have to leave something in mid-stream, I leave it. I know it will be there when I get back.
How are you managing your time and your body? At your job it may take a bit of ingenuity but you can improve your productivity by taking breaks. If you don’t have to go out to work it will be easier to incorporate changes in your day. If you have trouble sleeping at night because of pain, young children, pesky pets or all of the above, these pauses in your day become even more important.
Hey, while you’re at it, why not make those 20 minutes of a higher quality. Eat a fruit instead of a donut, have a glass of water instead of your third cup of coffee, or use the time to do some gentle exercise? Your body and mind will thank you with better health and peak performance.
Are you someone who takes frequent breaks? I’d love to hear about your experiences.