Taking Breaks at Work and How to do it Well

Healthcare professionals often have unpredictable schedules and are notorious for not taking breaks.  I have reached for the chocolates or doughnuts and charted while I was taking a "break" on the unit because I felt too busy/guilty to leave. 

There are many reasons why you could justify skipping breaks, like, “I don’t want to stay late,” “I feel guilty leaving for a break because there is so much to do,” “I don’t have time for a break.”

There comes a point when taking no break is a waste of time and productivity, we need time to recharge (wavelength). As Tim Kreider writes in the New York Times:

“Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice… It is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration—it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.”

If skipping breaks becomes a habit you could easily become burnt out. Some symptoms of burnout include:
“1. Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion, 2. Increased mental distance from your job or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to your job, 3. Reduced professional efficacy – or, in laymen’s terms, doing a poor job on-the-job” Psychology Today 

After doing some research I have a few ideas to make better use of my breaks. Based on your state of mind, set an intention of what kind of break will benefit your most.

    • Take yourself out of your environment: This will help your mind rest. It is almost impossible to take a break if you can see your work, hear call bells or have people coming up to you with questions.  
    • Get a move on: Walking or physical activity lends to creativity and has effects that linger.  Exercise helps increase your energy and sharpen your focus. It also helps decrease stress and anxiety, so try not to neglect breaks when your life gets busy. If you can get outside connecting with nature has a calming effect.
    • Find a space for quiet time: Read, doodle, do a puzzle (I love doing Sudoku) to focus your mind differently. Separate yourself from technology and refrain from checking your work e-mail.  If you are seeking mindfulness here is a link with mini-medication exercises.
    • Power nap to ward off sleepiness: Sara C. Mednick, Ph.D. in Sleep states that even 15-20 minutes of sleep can increase mental alertness and motor performance.
    • Eat well: When you’re hungry and energy levels are low it becomes easy to grab the sugary sweets that are commonplace at work. But the wrong fuel would exhaust your physical and mental energy rather than restore it. In an article, the fastcompany.com Hunger stems from a protein in the stomach called ghrelin that activates the neurotransmitter called NPY. “NPY lives in the hypothalamus–the section of your brain that controls fatigue, memory, and emotion–and essentially is always making sure you have enough energy to function. When you’re hungry and your energy level dips, it takes over and reminds you to eat.”(Jory Mackay—Zapier) The food you eat will be broken down into glucose which the brain needs to function but some foods will not have sustaining effects.  The Journal of Nutrition shows that low glycemic index foods provide longer satiating effects and slower absorption rate of glucose.  Eating lower glycemic index foods will allow not give you the stressful spike in blood glucose that doughnut will. Opt for a protein-rich snack like sous vide eggs or nuts or fiber-rich snacks such as an apple.   
    • Phone a friend: Who can check their phones on the job? Not many of us. I like to take the time to chat with my family or catch up with a friend.  
    • A great point from Headspace mentions leading by example.  Make it a norm to take care of yourself at work, support your colleagues so they too can get away for a proper break!  

After that being said, how do you enjoy taking your breaks? What gives you the most benefit? 

Thank you for reading and in case you forgot...

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Disclaimer: Kits Scrubs Inc. website and blog not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice.  As health and nutrition research continuously changes, we do not guarantee the accuracy, completeness, or timeliness of any information presented on this website.  Please talk to your healthcare provider for medical advice and concerns. 



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