Need to know: The importance of using breaks to recharge
Microbreaks are by definition regular short breaks throughout the day that allow you to recharge. The concept of using breaks to recharge and the research of its effects were specifically focused on productivity in a work environment but can also be applied to self care and parenting.
These small pockets of time can be scheduled as reminders or you can take them as you need them. On some days you might need less and on others you will need more to get through the day.
Why it’s important
As a parent or carer you are expected to be on 24 hours a day 7 days a week. If you have a spirited child or one who requires additional support, then you are probably always on the edge of exhaustion. Add to this the mental load of managing a home and holding down a job, and it can be the perfect storm for burnout.
Taking care of others is not easy, it requires reserves of patience, energy and empathy. These reserves are used up each and every day and need replenishment.
Parents are especially guilty of not prioritising their wellbeing because they feel like they can’t take an hour to exercise or read a book. A sense of guilt quickly thwarts any thoughts of taking time out for yourself, and instead you rationalise that you should use that time to do the laundry, make the beds or catch up on admin. This is where microbreaks come into their own -. 5 minute time-blocks a few times a day is all you need to refresh your body and mind.
Tips & strategies
Choose microbreaks that bring you joy, give your body a chance to release stress or give your mind an opportunity to switch off. The short breaks will be a lot more effective if you take them before you fall into a heap, so know your triggers. Here are some suggestions:
- Pamper break – take time to moisturise your hands using a product that you love, your skin will thank you. Use the opposite hand to massage in the cream and stretch your fingers.
- Release tension – stress and posture are responsible for tightening your shoulder muscles. Prevent headaches and back pain by stretching regularly.
- Have a laugh – watching something that makes you laugh can significantly change your mood. There are plenty of cat videos and memes that can have you in stitches
- Get the heart pumping – if you feel sluggish, get the blood flowing with a few jumping jacks or a brisk walk
- Call a friend – sometimes a friendly voice and a listening ear is all you need to change your outlook
- Play a game – games are a great way to produce a quick hit of dopamine. Download a selection on your phone so you have a few to choose from
- Breathe deeply – close your eyes and take deep breaths. As you breathe in through your nose imagine you have a balloon in your tummy that you are trying to fill. Breathe out through your nose slowly and allow your shoulders to drop.
- Use cold water on your face – if you are having difficulty calming down take advantage of a primitive reflex that is triggered when your face is submerged in cold water. The mammalian dive reflex immediately kicks in a part of our nervous system that slows everything down helping to regulate the heart rate and breathing. You can either fill a sink with icy cold water and submerge your face for 15 seconds or use an ice pack to cover your eyes and the space above your cheekbones.
And remember, using breaks to recharge is an essential tool to keeping you fresh, energised and at your best. They are small investments in yourself that help you be a better parent, partner and person.