Why taking a break is good for your health

Mental Health

by Louis A. Gamino, PhD, ABPP, FT

May 24, 2017

As the perceived need to accumulate wealth spreads across America, many people are feeling overworked and stretched to the limit. Whether it’s a single mom trying to make ends meet, or a father who is feeling pressure from a boss to stay late, it can start to take a toll on your health.

As a psychologist, I’m here to let you know that it’s okay to take a break. In fact, it’s important that you do because it leads to a healthier lifestyle. So, do yourself a favor — take a break, read these tips and then take a walk around your office to get your mind rejuvenated and refocused.

The Importance of Taking Breaks

People are incentive-driven creatures — particularly in private enterprise-based economies where people are paid more and rewarded for working longer and harder. In such an atmosphere, it can be quite tempting to ‘overwork,’ especially under management strategies designed to constantly increase production.

Breaks from work are important because they help put the ‘brakes’ on illusory thinking that you have superhuman capabilities.

Unfortunately, some people become ‘workaholics’ or convince themselves that production can continue to increase in an ever-rising upward spiral. Such illusions usually result in eventual breakdowns in morale and the quality of output.

In a health care setting, taking needed breaks can prevent the danger of “compassion fatigue”, in which one literally runs out of the reservoir of caring that is foundational to the work of healing and comforting.

Our bodies are extraordinarily intricate physiological machines. They have an untold number of moving parts, far more sophisticated than the fastest racecar.

However, any machine that is run too hard, too long, without consideration for maintenance and upkeep will ultimately breakdown. So it is with the ‘human machine.’

Breaks during the workday provide those momentary pit stops to refuel, take a breather, reset our focus and then get back into the (human) race.

How to Refuel Our Bodies

Besides ensuring that you get basic rest and nutrition, taking a break at work for a cup of coffee or even taking a short walk inside the building can do wonders for clearing the mind and revitalizing oneself.

Strategies for relaxation like mindfulness, meditation, diversion, humor, music, yoga, Tai-Chi or similar methods can also be built into a work regime to keep schedules from getting out of control.

The best workers over the long haul are those who practice good self-care along the way, in order to achieve high levels of output over a sustained interval.

When people become stressed, overworked, overcommitted or approach burnout, a longer amount of time is needed besides just daily breaks. That is where a weekend off or even a longer vacation comes into the picture.

Also, stepping off the production wheel long enough to re-evaluate and regroup can be a good idea. In our current digital age, intentionally unplugging from computers, e-mail, texting, tweeting and the Internet for a predetermined interval can be remarkably rejuvenating.

Now, the next time you feel overworked or stress, don’t feel guilty if you need to take a step outside and clear your head. Be sure to use this time wisely in order to feel refreshed and ready to take on the rest of your work day.

About the Author

Louis A. Gamino, PhD, ABPP, FT is a psychologist on the medical staff at Scott & White Mental Health Center - Temple.

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