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The Value of Taking A Break

** this post originally appeared on The PhDiva Life **

 When was the last time you sat down and completely turned off your brain from work? For me, it was this weekend while I binge watched 13 Reasons Why in our new bed that I can’t seem to get out of. #sorrynotsorry But in all seriousness, taking a break is essential to your success, health, and overall wellbeing. Here are my top reasons you need to take a break, and my favorite ways to spend that time.

 

Taking a break avoids burnout

The more you work and the harder you work, the greater your chance of burnout. Those people who give you so much guilt because they’re always in the office before you and stay later than you? Yea, they’re probably not being very productive. In fact, if you’ve been able to achieve some sense of work/life balance, it’s a good bet that you accomplish more than they do in any given day.

 

Start small with this one. Instead of spending your lunch break catching up on emails you missed while stuck in meetings all morning, get up! Make a promise to never eat lunch at your desk again. You could also institute a social media/email deadline. For example, I tell all of my students that I don’t respond to emails after 9 p.m. and guess what? I get very few emails after 9 because of this. It’s simple, but helps me go to bed feeling like everything is under control and not obsessing about work.

Taking a break strengthens your relationships

You know that phrase “it takes a village to _____” and people fill in the blank with “raise a family,” “train a puppy,” and “get a PhD,” to name a few? Yea, it’s true. You need people and people need you for a lot more than just meetings and phone calls.

 

Taking a break to consciously spend time with friends, family, and romantic partners is essential to your own success and happiness. The key here is to be fully present in these moments and leave work behind entirely. I highly recommend a good hike, visiting a new town, and wine tasting for a good relationship boost, but that’s just me. 😉 If you feel like you can bond with your bestie while getting a manicure or browsing the mall, then by all means, schedule a date ASAP.

Taking a break is good for your physical, mental, and emotional health

One of the biggest lightbulb moments I had was when I first got a Fitbit and realized how much sitting I do during a typical workday. This encouraged me to consciously walk and move more during the day, which has led to some really beneficial breaks. I also got a stand up desk, but that’s for a different post.

 

Taking a break helps us indulge in a little self care, which can have cumulative effects. Call a friend during a walk from the parking garage to your office instead of mentally reviewing your to-do list. Take 5 minutes every few hours to stretch. Find 10 minutes a day to meditate. Sit down with your partner for dinner at a real table, not the couch! These small tips will help you feel less rushed and more in control, plus, it forces you not to be a workaholic.

Playing hard helps us work hard – here’s the proof.

Taking a break increases your opportunities for success

Taking one break per hour has been shown to increase productivity, which can in turn, lead to more success. This means you have permission to check Instagram, grab a latte, or go chat with a co-worker for a few minutes. You’re welcome.

Taking breaks also increases creativity and helps you see things from new and fresh perspectives, which aids in decision making.

A common misconception is that a break is this long, all encompassing event. Not true! Simply taking a 15 minute walk during the day can jumpstart your creativity and motivation. You don’t need to sacrifice 13 hours to Netflix to reap the benefits of the above list. Trust me, a stroll through Nordstrom or a quick browse on Amazon can really do wonders when your brain is overloaded.

 

Lastly, if you’re stressing about taking a break, you’re not doing it right! Try giving this book a read (during a break) to shift your mindset and help you embrace the power of breaks, among other things. Listen to your mind and body and don’t force a break, but don’t fight it either.