It’s tempting to power through breaks when deadlines are seemingly impossible or there is pressure from leadership, but taking the break for the mind is really going to serve you best in the long run. Recharging and relaxing actually improves performance and focus when you come back to the task. To cultivate true inner happiness, even in the midst of a crazy stressful day, taking even 30 minutes for yourself will make you feel more connected and content. Taking a break from work might make you panic initially, thinking that you’re losing productive minutes. In fact, taking a break for the mind will yield greater benefits including reduced decision fatigue and increased memory retention. Think about it: After back to back meetings, how clearly can you recall anything specific that happened in any of those meetings? A study completed by the Draugiem Group showed that frequent-break-takers out performed the competition by getting more done with more focus during their working time. On average, they found that the most productive employees take a 17 minute break for every 52 minutes of work. What does all this mean? Working through lunch, skipping breaks, and working longer/later hours is significantly counterproductive to your productivity, health, and headspace.
A great way to incorporate mindfulness, improve your health, and give yourself the mental break from a rushed, busy day is a technique called mindful eating. We’ve all scarfed down a meal absentmindedly while checking social media on our phones. Eating mind-LESS-ly may cause us to overeat because we’re not really in tune with our body’s needs. Mindful eating means being fully present in the act of nourishing your body. Listen to your body’s cues of hunger or fullness. Savor each bite. Observe and analyze the flavors, the smells, and truly experience your meal. Eating more slowly will also help you become more in tune with your body and knowing when you’re full, whereas before it was more of a “eat until the food is gone” mentality. Mindful eating will also provide your mind with a break from the hectic pace of the day. The result will be a more productive afternoon.
S.T.O.P. is a popular mindfulness exercise that can help you during acutely stressful situations.
Stop – Just take a momentary pause, no matter what you’re doing.
Take a breath – Feel the sensation of your own breathing, which brings you back to the present moment.
Observe. Acknowledge what is happening, for good or bad, inside you or out. Just notice.
Proceed – Having briefly checked in with the present moment, continue with whatever it was you were doing.
The best way to begin incorporating mindfulness into your workplace is to share these techniques with others and encourage colleagues to have an open mind regarding their implementation. As an individual, you have more power over your own engagement at work than you realize. Utilizing mindfulness techniques will unlock that power for you. As a leader, the benefits of incorporating mindfulness into the workplace will trickle down to your team. They’ll enjoy meetings more, be more engaged during discussion, and more productive team members. Personally, Mindfulness has empowered me to take an active role in my own engagement at work, sharpened my focus for task-oriented projects, and shown me the importance of maintaining mental well-being at work. I hope that you explore some of the techniques outlined in this article and at the very least, have a new curiosity about mindfulness.