How to Take Effective Mindful Breaks at Work
A little bit of stress at work can be incredibly helpful…
…it can motivate you to get things done on time and keeps you productive, focused and determined.
However, when stress builds up too much it can become overwhelming. Fast.
You might notice your heart racing and your palms sweating. You might start overworking and thinking about work when you’re at home. The more overwhelmed you feel, the more problems can arise.
Stress might compromise your immune system, leading to illness which creates even more pressure at work.
You might try to work faster, leading to simple mistakes.
Your stress might interfere with your relationships with your colleagues, causing tension and disharmony.
There are many different ways stress can have a negative impact on your work (and how you feel at work!).
So, how can we maintain a healthy level of stress without it spiralling out of control?
One option is to take mindful breaks at work.
While mindful breaks may seem like small and insignificant moments of time in your day, they can actually help alleviate stress and allow you to gain some clarity.
However, it’s not always easy to remember to take mindful breaks during the working day.
So, I’ve created this simple guide you can implement at work to help you take regular mindful breaks which are both short and effective.
9am – Mindful breathing
Take a few moments to observe your breath. Feel each inhale and exhale, following the journey of air moving in and out of your body. You might also like to choose one area where you can feel your breath, such as your nose, throat, chest or stomach, and just pay attention to that area. This practice can last for a few seconds to a few minutes, if you have time.
10am – Drink a glass of water
Feel the smoothness of the glass or water-bottle in your hands. Notice the temperature of the water as you drink it. Observe the soft fluidity of the liquid in your mouth – you might even notice a few drops on your lips. Focus your attention on the water and let everything else fade into the background for a few moments.
11am – Stretch
If you’re sitting down, roll your neck and shoulders, link your hands together and stretch them out in front of you, straighten one leg out at a time and gently press your heel into the floor to stretch the backs of your legs. If you’re standing up, lean slightly over to one side and then the other side, reach your arms above your head, or stand on your tip-toes.
Of course, you can use any other stretches which might be appropriate and feel good for you!
As you stretch your body, savour the sensations and feel all your muscles lengthening and releasing tension.
12pm – Notice your senses
Look around and observe the different colours, shapes and light in the world around you. Notice any aromas. Feel the sensations in and around your body – areas of tension and relaxation, hunger or satiation, the textures of materials against your skin, warmth or coolness. Taste any lingering flavours in your mouth. Listen to the sounds around you and in the distance.
1pm – Acknowledge your emotions
It’s often easy or convenient to ignore emotions, but they can be great indicators of our needs. Take a few moments to acknowledge how you’re feeling without judgement – just observe your emotions and notice if they have physical signs. For example, you might notice that you’re feeling nervous about an upcoming deadline and the physical signs include a churning sensation in your stomach and hunched shoulders.
Once you’ve taken some time to mindfully observe your emotions, you might also like to fulfil the needs they represent. For example, if you’re feeling isolated you could initiate an interaction with someone. If you’re feeling angry, you might take a break from the task to gain a new perspective. If you’re feeling stressed, you could talk to someone and ask for help.
2pm – Use a mindfulness tool
Keep a few mindfulness tools on your desk or in your bag, such as moisturiser, a mindfulness quote, an aromatic room spray, lip balm, a box of mints or a journal. When you use your mindfulness tool, really pay attention to it. Notice the feeling, smell, taste, sound or look of it. Take a few moments to stop thinking about what you should have done or what you have to do – just notice the present moment using your mindfulness tool to anchor you.
3pm – Go for a mindful walk
Take a few minutes to walk around, feeling the ground underneath your feet. As each foot peels away from the ground, notice the points of contact and the sensation of pressure and release.
Alternatively, use your walk as an opportunity to tune into your senses.
4pm – Practice gratitude
Acknowledge 3 things you can be grateful for in this moment.
Here are a few ideas:
-a colleague who makes you smile
-a strength you’ve been using
-an object around you which makes your work easier
-a part of your body
-an aspect of your personality
-a colour you like in the world around you
5pm – Observe nature
If you don’t work outside or near windows, keep a plant nearby or on your desk so you can spend some time observing nature. Notice the colours, textures, shapes and little details of the sky, a plant, a flower, a tree, or any other part of nature you have access to.
Another simple way to practice mindfulness is to take a lunch break and pay attention to your food as you eat it. Taste the flavours, observe the different colours, feel the textures and temperature of the food in your mouth and notice the aromas. It might be helpful to leave your phone or other technology at your desk while you eat so you won’t be distracted!
Are you ready to incorporate mindfulness into your workplace in meaningful, practical and fulfilling ways? Click here to discover my eBook, A Journey into Mindfulness: Finding Fulfilment at Work. You’ll discover helpful journaling prompts, a bonus goal-setting section, productivity tips and heaps more!