bee on flower
Time & Money Management

Mental Break: How Shutting Down Can Improve Productivity

 

One of the best tips for improving motivation and accomplishing your “things to do” list has nothing to do with productivity tools or fancy tracker apps. Taking a mental break is one of the easiest things you can do for your mental & physical health. Whether you have five minutes or five days, this list is full of ideas for when you need to take a break. Learn facts about how the brain works and tips you can use to recharge it. #mentalbreak #productivity #recharge My phone had been buzzing all morning with text messages & group chats. I had checked Facebook, my email, and the weather. I’d listened to a podcast & an audiobook. As I sat down to eat lunch, I heard the birds chirping outside. I noticed the silence of a rare day where my boys were out of the house & I was all alone. At that moment, my need for quiet & stillness became incredibly clear. I needed a reset.  A reboot.  A mental break.

Like a cell phone that needs to be turned off and back on to fix an error or a computer that needs to reboot when not working properly, or our brains need to do the same.  You cannot run efficiently if you never take time to decompress. Too much stimulation triggers stress and tension.  Too much work without rest wears on the system. Too many to do’s- without any time for to don’ts- is a recipe for disaster.

This is your brain on work

The part of your brain that’s in charge of the thinking type of work is the prefrontal cortex (PFC).  When you are working to accomplish goals or tasks that require concentration, it’s the PFC that keeps you focused and works to get you across the finish line.

This is the same part of the brain that handles executive functioning- your brain’s ability to paying attention, organize & plan, initiate tasks & stay focused on them, regulate emotions, and self-monitor activities. The PFC is also responsible for logical thinking and using willpower to override impulses.

You can see how the prefrontal cortex is in charge of a lot of things as you work.   This is why it needs a mental break while you work!

One of the best tips for improving motivation and accomplishing your “things to do” list has nothing to do with productivity tools or fancy tracker apps. Taking a mental break is one of the easiest things you can do for your mental & physical health. Whether you have five minutes or five days, this list is full of ideas for when you need to take a break. Learn facts about how the brain works and tips you can use to recharge it. #mentalbreak #productivity #recharge

Benefits of a mental break

A recent study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity found that workers who took a 5-minute mental break every hour during a simulated six-hour workday demonstrated happier moods, less fatigue, and had reduced food cravings.  Additionally, their breaks did not harm their cognitive ability.

Because mental resources get depleted throughout the course of the day, regular breaks and downtime can renew your mental resources and get you back on track.

Mental breaks offer a lot of health and wellness benefits

Scientific research confirms that taking mental breaks can:

  • help you reset and refocus
  • keep you moving toward your goals
  • refresh your mind, helping you be more creative
  • help the brain make sense of what it’s already learned
  • provide time for self-reflection
  • allow the brain time to process neglected mental tasks
  • provide downtime for unconscious mental problem solving
  • replenish attention and motivation
  • help you maintain a sense of selfOne of the best tips for improving motivation and accomplishing your “things to do” list has nothing to do with productivity tools or fancy tracker apps. Taking a mental break is one of the easiest things you can do for your mental & physical health. Whether you have five minutes or five days, this list is full of ideas for when you need to take a break. Learn facts about how the brain works and tips you can use to recharge it. #mentalbreak #productivity #recharge

Mental break strategies

If you’ve been feeling anxious, stressed, overwhelmed, or out of sorts, maybe it’s time for a mental break.  Whether you have ten minutes, ten hours, or ten days, here are some strategies you can incorporate into your life to help give your brain a break and refresh your soul.

A soft reboot (quick reset, 5-10 minutes)

The most restful mental break is one that switches work from one area of the brain to another.  If you’re working a task that is heavy on your prefrontal cortex, engage in a break that stimulates another area of the brain so that the PFC can rest.

If you’re seeking some minutes to reset, consider trying out one of these strategies:

  1. Take a power nap
    • Naps replenish concentration and improve your task performance
    • 10-minute naps hit the sweet spot of providing restorative rest without requiring a recovery of sorts from grogginess
  2. Take a walk
    • A nature walk relaxes the mind and body. It’s great if you need to escape a busy work environment and breathe in some calm
    • A walk in the city or in a busy area can help energize your brain as you take in lots of stimuli
  3. Practice meditation
    • Mindfulness meditation refers to a sustained focus on one’s thoughts and emotions in the current moment.
    • Mindfulness training can relieve stress, depression, and anxiety
    • Long term benefits of meditation include improved concentration and a stronger memory
  4. Take a breather
    • Turn off all technology & external stimuli. Sit in silence, being present in the moment. Focus in on your senses and surroundings.  Take slow, deep breaths
    • Completely focusing on your breathing, for even just 30 seconds, can help relax your body and your mind
  5.  Daydream
    • Daydreaming activates the unconscious mind where creativity thrives
  6. Have a cup of Joe.
    • Caffeine helps to increase alertness in the brain (just don’t overconsume or its benefits decline)
    • Sipping coffee during a break can be restorative and relaxingOne of the best tips for improving motivation and accomplishing your “things to do” list has nothing to do with productivity tools or fancy tracker apps. Taking a mental break is one of the easiest things you can do for your mental & physical health. Whether you have five minutes or five days, this list is full of ideas for when you need to take a break. Learn facts about how the brain works and tips you can use to recharge it. #mentalbreak #productivity #recharge
  7. Change your environment
    • Even if you can’t wander far, getting up from your desk or work area and moving to a new space can provide a mental reset.
    • Consider pairing this strategy with another, like getting a cup of coffee or taking a breather, for a one-two punch
  8. Eat something
    • Having a meal or snack can recharge the mind and body by providing fuel
    • Select balanced, healthy snacks and meals over high sugar or high carb options, which can leave you feeling worse once they’re metabolized
  9. Get creative
    • Try doodling, drawing, or coloring to activate the creative and visual right-brain

Create a habit of taking deliberate mental breaks during the “in-between moments” in your day, such as eating your lunch, standing in the grocery line, riding public transportation, or taking a shower to boost your mental health.

If you’re ready to reduce your overwhelm and simplify your life, be sure to join the Slow Motion  Mama tribe! Get immediate access to my completely FREE resource library and download the resources you need to curate a life you love today!

Hard reboot (few hours to a day)

If you need some extended time to reboot, take a day off to enjoy something completely unrelated to work or the task at hand

  1. Grab a drink with a friend
  2. Write some thank-you notes
    • Expressing gratitude reframes your thoughts and focus
  3. Check something off your to-do list- small, lingering tasks can take up mental bandwidth without us even realizing it
    • Declutter something- clean out that junk drawer or organize your master bedroom closet
    • Organize your kitchen utensil drawer
    • Clean your desk
    • Clean out your car
    • Make those necessary phone calls you’ve been putting off
  4. Get inspired on Pinterest
    • Get creative! Check out some new projects and give one a try
  5. Get Introspective
    • Spend some time thinking about your future and what you’d like to accomplish.
    • Outline some goals or create a vision board
  6. Take a day trip
    • Check out a nearby museum, attraction, or swanky new restaurant
  7. Enjoy something seasonal
    • Go to a pumpkin patch in the fall, take a day to ski in the winter, plan your garden in the spring, or enjoy a picnic in the summer
  8. Take a class
    • Find a class that releases your creative side or tests your physical strength to give your logical brain a restOne of the best tips for improving motivation and accomplishing your “things to do” list has nothing to do with productivity tools or fancy tracker apps. Taking a mental break is one of the easiest things you can do for your mental & physical health. Whether you have five minutes or five days, this list is full of ideas for when you need to take a break. Learn facts about how the brain works and tips you can use to recharge it. #mentalbreak #productivity #recharge
  9. Add to your bucket list
    • Surf the web and find cool experiences you don’t want to miss
    • Check out Bucketlisty or Life’d’s list of 225 bucket-worth experiences for inspiration
  10. Spruce up an area of your house or office
  11. Enjoy a day out freshening up your look
  12. Participate in a service project

Reset (total shutdown and restart; a week, a month, or longer)

Sometimes getting away is the best respite for your brain and body.  If a soft or hard reboot isn’t seeming to do the trick, maybe it’s time for a total shutdown.  Sometimes the best way to get back on track is to turn off your work brain, unplug from your life, and recharge your spirit.

  1. Step away from a major project
    • If you’ve been working steadily on a major project that’s required a lot of time and resources, try taking a few days or weeks off.  Sometimes an extended break is just what you need to feel fully restored and ready to reengage.
  2. Take a vacation
    • Travel is a great way to reset from mental stress.  Distancing yourself from work problems, experiencing new places, trying new foods, and attending cool social events are just some of the benefits of travel.  Areas of the brain that deal with novelty and creativity thrive when you are on vacation.  Having time to relax, sleep, and recharge helps spark new ideas and insights.

      Love the idea of traveling but think you can’t afford it?  Consider planning an epic road trip or check out our ways to enjoy an adventure on a budget.
  3. Go camping
    • Even if you’re not the roughing it type, don’t underestimate the restorative properties of getting out into nature.  Rent a cabin or treehouse in the woods, experience life in a yurt, or backpack in the wilderness for a few days.  Just be sure to disconnect from technology and fully embrace your time with Mother Nature to take full advantage of the experience.

One of the best tips for improving motivation and accomplishing your “things to do” list has nothing to do with productivity tools or fancy tracker apps. Taking a mental break is one of the easiest things you can do for your mental & physical health. Whether you have five minutes or five days, this list is full of ideas for when you need to take a break. Learn facts about how the brain works and tips you can use to recharge it. #mentalbreak #productivity #recharge

Get ahead by hitting pause

Mental breaks are essential for high performance.  They recharge your brain, restore your creativity, and provide a sense of balance.  You cannot take from a depleted reserve.  You cannot give what you do not have.

Sometimes the best way to improve productivity and move forward on goals is to actually pause.  Give yourself a few minutes, a day, or a week or more to rest, restore, and recharge.  Find your balance between work and rest by implementing regular mental breaks.

 

One of the best tips for improving motivation and accomplishing your “things to do” list has nothing to do with productivity tools or fancy tracker apps. Taking a mental break is one of the easiest things you can do for your mental & physical health. Whether you have five minutes or five days, this list is full of ideas for when you need to take a break. Learn facts about how the brain works and tips you can use to recharge it. #mentalbreak #productivity #recharge

Similar Posts