All Articles Tagged "stress"
Are you afraid of life? That is an extreme question, but it is real. With context the question would read, are you afraid of the potential of experiencing terrible things in life? Now that is real.
Bad things are always happening to people. Facts. Bad things like a cancer diagnosis, car accidents, identity theft, heart disease, drug addictions, fires, and natural disasters happen every day. This list could go on and on, but that would defeat the purpose of this article.
So, on the count of three let’s say it together, “STOP!”
Yes, that’s right. Yell it! STOP! STOP! STOP!
Now, take a deep breath and focus.
It’s time to discuss why we are yelling stop and to whom or what.
We are yelling stop to the incessant stream of bad news and negative information coming from wherever or whomever. It’s time to unplug from bad news.
It’s funny, there are about 330 million people living in these United States of America. Every morning when we open our eyes, we all move about our day living, working, loving, and moving forward to do it again. However, when we sit down for a cup of coffee, a check-in with social media, a newspaper, the television, or maybe even our own thoughts, the focus is death, drama, and destruction.
Why is that? What good does that do for anyone? All day long we interact with living and loving people, even if they are rude, but the news and the media and our thoughts rarely zone in on this fact. Instead, we make ourselves accessible to an overwhelming stream of bad news. It never shuts off.
No wonder, we are always anxious, fearful, and worried. How often do we reflect on and communicate the good news in our lives. Contrary to our minds, that are influenced by external forces, there is lots of good news.
Do you know the likelihood of an American dying is less than one percent? Yes, 99 percent of Americans live to see the following year. The Center for Disease Control reports that roughly 2.5 million Americans die each year. This is not to lessen the degree of significance in regards to those lives, but we must put things into proper perspective. We live in the wealthiest nation in the world, and we have a 99% chance of continuing to do so each year. What are we afraid of? Why are we so obsessed with being anxious, fearful, and worried?
According to The Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18 percent of the population. But why, and what can we do about it?
Why are we always anticipating the worst when we are surrounded by the best? Yes, bad things happen sometimes. However most of us, Americans, are living, working, eating, and loving human beings more days than not.
If we are anxious, this means that we are anticipating the future based on what we know of today or yesterday. But who can predict the future? Why not just enjoy what we have today instead of stressing about tomorrow?
Here are the most common methods used to combat fear stress, anxiety, and worry according to The Brain and Behavior Research Foundation:
- Maintaining an optimistic but realistic outlook
- Facing fear (ability to confront one’s fears)
- Reliance upon own inner, moral compass
- Turning to religious or spiritual practices
- Seeking and accepting social support
- Imitation of sturdy role models
- Staying physically fit
- Staying mentally sharp
- Cognitive and emotional flexibility (finding a way to accept that which cannot be changed)
- Looking for meaning and opportunity in the midst of adversity
Conclusion: Yell “STOP” to negative information and thinking.
Instead, take care of yourself by training your mind to think positively.
This will definitely be hard at first. It is always hard to go against societal norms and/or break habits, but practicing positivity is proven to decrease our stress levels and increase our happiness.
Moms, what are your tips for handling fear and stress?
Clarissa Joan is a spiritual life coach and editor-in-chief of The Clarissa Joan Experience. She resides in Philadelphia with her husband, their two girls, and a yorkie named Ace. Clarissa is also an expert in impact investing.
If you’ve followed any of the pieces written for this “Road to the Altar” column, you already know that while a wedding day is supposed to be one of the happiest days of your life, the time leading up to that day is a headache. Planning ain’t for everybody. It can be a seemingly nonstop headache filled with disagreements over everything from guest count to color choices. My wedding planning situation has been like that, and I think it got so bad for my stress levels as of late that something in my head snapped.
And I had a panic attack.
It happened late last month. I’m talking a full-blown panic attack where I couldn’t catch my breath in between sobbing and thoughts of just jumping out of a window. But since I live on the second floor of a three-story walk-up, I probably would have just twisted an ankle and then looked all kinds of foolish in my sleep dress sprawled out in the middle of my quiet Brooklyn street at the crack of dawn.
Other things had also been stressing me out, leading to my “moment.” Work stuff, issues with friends, money worries, my concerns about keeping my weight down, and apartment woes, but the wedding was the base of it. And certain opinions about said wedding had me worried that I was preparing for a marriage where people’s opinions would always be in the loop. That made me very uncomfortable. And that got my mind racing. That on top of the stress of answering questions about if certain patterns were okay, how catering was going to be set up, if my father and my fiancé’s mom could have extra seats for friends, trying to come up with deposit money, and making the time to do research just became a bit too much.
So I went home for a week. I went back to Chicago, holed up in my teenage bedroom with its bright blue walls, and just slept and ate. Each day had no set plan. I was tired of planning things.
“You want to use the car? Are you going anywhere today?” my mom would ask.
“Nope, I’m probably going to call it a night,” I would say as I prepared to go to sleep at 10 p.m. after being in the house all day with the ‘rents.
Many of us take days off of work to explore the world and do things for others, but I just needed that week to explore my mind and do a little something for myself. I just needed to be around people who would listen when I wanted to open up about my stress, and if nothing else, bring me food. Lots and lots of delicious food.
When I wasn’t eating, sleeping, or watching TV with a paper towel covered in peanuts and raisins next to me (I gave up candy and sweets for Lent, so that’s been my alternative), I was reading my Bible. I was looking to find my way back to a sense of peace, a sense of joy, and maybe some happiness, which I told you not too long before my “moment” I had very little of. I restored myself by being back at home with my parents, not letting anyone else know I was in town (lest they ask me to meet up–which would be planning for something all over again), and focusing on my mental health. I had been so busy ripping and running for a wedding I didn’t even want that much anymore, that I let it take toll on my mind.
A few weeks back in NYC and I do feel much better. I struggle sometimes when I have to have “What are we gonna do about ____?” wedding conversations with my fiance, but I’ve learned to find healthy ways to deal with my stress. Including telling him that “We’ll figure it out later” before changing the topic of conversation.
I also only get to wedding planning and doing research when I absolutely feel up to it. And when I feel myself getting overwhelmed in general, I zone out and try to find clarity through my mom, who still sends messages to check in (“Hang in there!!”), and through the Word. By taking things slow and not overextending myself, I’ve actually managed to get a lot more accomplished for the wedding. Including finding and putting down the deposit for a church, finding a makeup artist, finding a new caterer, a photographer, and checking out decor ideas for inspiration with my mom and planner. I’ve also found myself getting more excited about the wedding. Whoever thought that would happen?!
But more than anything, I’m realizing more and more what matters in the grand scheme of things. My relationships–with the Man upstairs, with my future husband, with my loved ones, and with myself. And I’m hoping to do a better job of being more kind to all four–especially the latter.
“You have the same amount of time in a day as Beyoncé.”
I heard someone say this in one of the many new-age motivational speeches I ran across on YouTube. I laughed at first, thinking just how cliché it sounded. Then I got a bit offended as I thought about how inconsiderate the speaker was. Beyoncé has help I thought to myself. You know, nannies, assistants, and other paid staff. I just have me.
I was beyond stressed. I was overworked and highly underpaid as I worked a corporate job by day and grinded in between hours and at night to establish my own business. To add another item to an already full plate, I was also a grad student at the time. Not one to properly manage stress, you can only imagine what my mental and physical health was like. I was a mess, and I knew something had to be done before I came all the way undone.
Psychology Today explains stress as “simply a reaction to a stimulus that disturbs our physical or mental equilibrium.” Basically, stress is something that can shake us up mentally or physically. But here’s a startling piece of information: All stress is not bad. In fact, acute stress can be good for you. Its short-term effects can get you excited about something; but when it lingers for too long, it can be a problem. Chronic stress, the feelings we have of constantly feeling swamped and overworked for long periods of time, isn’t good. But it didn’t take a carefully-crafted article by a Psychology Today writer to let me know that this type of stress could wreak havoc on my life. My failing mental and physical health had already given me the heads up. To add insult to injury, I was doing so much that not much was really getting done. This, of course, stressed me out even more.
Stress had made me even more impatient than I already was, something I’d been working on for so long. Already an individual with a low tolerance level, my inability to cope with stress had made my tolerance level drop from 1 to 0. My memory was bad because I had too many things cluttered up in my brain at one time, vying for attention.
So how did I go from constant feelings of stress and anxiety to a somewhat more productive life? While this might sound like a ‘duh’ revelation, I finally realized that stress was a choice. And though I didn’t want to be stressed, my actions suggested otherwise. I then had to decide that I no longer wished to be in a constant state of anxiety, also known as crazy, depending on you who asked about my unnerving behavior.
After making the decision that I would cope with stress better than I had been, I then needed to take inventory. In my planner full of obligations and notes, I used a sheet to begin tracking my stress habits. I had to decide what tasks I could eliminate from my load. I even had to remove the people who were a waste of my time and interfering with things that I valued more. Then I had to track my time. What was I doing with these 24 hours of the day that both Queen Bey and I had?
Eliminating projects wasn’t easy because each of them were very important to me. What I finally decided to do was simply put some on hold. I didn’t begin a project without finishing another. For someone who was creatively all over the place, this was extremely difficult. All of my projects were “my babies” and it was hard to temporarily part ways with them; but for the sake of my sanity, it had to be done.
After doing all of this and learning to say no to new projects or obligations that I simply didn’t have time for, I soon became a lot more productive. Things were getting done, and my stress levels were down. I didn’t walk around in a constant bad mood. I was actually able to enjoy the process of working, instead of waiting for some magical outcome to make me happy. I also opted out of Team No Sleep. I needed sleep, for both my physical and mental well-being. While I still don’t get nearly as much as I should, I am doing better; and I always listen to my body when it tells me it needs some TLC. When I feel myself trying to tackle more than I can really handle, I remind myself that it is no fun living a life where I always feel behind. Move stress out of the way and make way for peace of mind.
There are these moments when everything is good, you are surrounded by people that you love, your refrigerator is stocked, your bills are paid, and you are enjoying life. Then your boss requests your monthly report two weeks ahead of schedule, the baby sitter gets sick and cancels for the week, the hot water heater in your basement busts, and you discover that you cannot fit any of your winter clothes from last year. These are what I call the peaks and the valleys of life. It’s the moment your baby smiles at you with those precious eyes and simultaneously lets breakfast explode all over you and the cream lounge chair your sitting in. Who wants that perfect love story anyway?
My week began with my daughter meeting two new friends, Mr. Cold and Mrs. Fever. I’m sure this is one of many play dates they’ll all have during her lifetime, but I was undone by the situation. Thankfully, I got her fever to break within less than 24 hours. None-the-less, I was not enthused about leaving her to go to my evening classes. I planned on turning in my work and skipping out, but class greeted me with a 110 on one midterm. Yay! I decided to stick around.
The middle of our week tangoed with our daughter’s 9-month wellness appointment and my day trip to NYC for a speaking engagement. We left her wellness visit with a clean bill of health! My trip to NYC was a success business-wise, but the night ended with my cab driver accidentally driving into oncoming traffic on the wrong side of the street. Escaping by inches from a head on collision without a seatbelt, I thanked God immensely when I entered my home to the sight of my husband and baby girl peacefully sleeping.
With two amazing business calls completed, my husband not being selected for jury duty, and a surprise invite to a kids party five minutes away from our home, it was TGIF for The Middletons. Genesis looked super cute in her butterfly costume, my husband got the chance to talk beer and sports with other men, and I met another work from home mom happy to share love and war stories. It was the perfect ending to our bi-polar week. But of course my husband gets a call that his store was robbed and he must report to the scene immediately.
None of what I am describing is anything out of the ordinary for the contradictory days most people encounter throughout their existence. Life is full of peaks and valleys, and the faster you climb up the mountain the faster you encounter its depths. I use to strive for perfection, or at least what I thought perfection was. I desired a life without blemish. To me perfection represented acceptance, a state of belonging. I wanted to be perfect, because my perfection would make me feel whole, complete without lost.
Then I lost, I lost a lot, and I lost some more, and I realized that in the losing I also gained. I realized that the lost added to my character just as much as anything I gained. The lost was just as important if not more important than the gain, because it prepared me for what I was not yet ready to receive. Losing my son made me a better mother for my daughter. I know this to be true. Losing my great-grandmother made me more accepting of providence, and the death of my mother opened up my heart again.
These are extreme cases that some may not be able to relate to, but the message is clear. In order to climb the higher mountain, we have to meet it at the lowest depth. My daughter getting sick made me more appreciative of her clean bill of health during her wellness visit. Almost being injured or worse in car collision humbled my spirit to the sweet peace and fullness of joy there is to be found in our own homes with our own families. As tedious as 7-hours of unnecessary jury duty was for my husband, it positioned his absence from the wrong time at the wrong place.
There is a moon and there is a sun. There is man and there is woman. There is dirt and then there is grass. There is a baby and then there is poop. “Like love and a marriage go together like a horse and carriage.” This is perfection, wholeness, and the sweet surrender to the flow of it all. No, the valley’s are not like the peaks, but they too can be appreciated and greeted with love. If the baby cries, comfort him. If it snows, make a snowman. If your clothes don’t fit, enjoy making a vision board for your new look.
If the master of the universe saw it fit to create night and day, who are we to not be thankful that He gave us two forms of light instead of one.
Resistance to the moment is war not peace, and who really has energy for that?
You know all that hype at the start of the new year about accomplishing all your goals and making this your year? I’m usually with it, and I walk into the new year ready to make things happen. But this year, not so much. I walked into this year feeling stressed out, tired, and a bit frazzled. I spent January trying to keep up while wrapping my head around everything I needed to do, and part of February in the same space. I’ve been exhausted!
I know it’s probably overstated, but I will say it again; moms have a lot on their plates. And of course, I totally respect the hustle of all my friends who don’t have kids, but this motherhood thing is real. Trying to take care of yourself, pursue your dreams, and have a life—all while raising happy, well-adjusted kids—is no easy feat. Frankly, it can become a hot mess.
Since my babies need me to pull it together because being a hot mess all year just isn’t an option (for so many reasons), I have implanted a few strategies to help me lower the dial on the frazzle-meter. Check them out and let me know if they help you feel less frazzled, a little more rested, and a lot calmer.
- Meditate for 5 minutes. I have been trying to meditate for years, and the mere thought of it has always stressed me out (I know, I have issues). The idea of being still for a long period of time always felt weird. Well not anymore. And do you know why? I just meditate for 5-10 minutes a day. I use an app on my phone, find a quiet space—either first thing in the morning, or alone in my car at some point during the day—and I just do it. It has really been reducing my stress level and it helps me keep my emotions in check.
- Call the right people. I have a few close friends, and I choose who I call depending on what’s going on. When you feel exhausted, upset, or overwhelmed, call the friend that is most likely to understand how you feel because they have been there. Sometimes, we need empathy from a friend, not sympathy.
- Let something go. I know it often feels like every single thing on your plate needs to be there. Is that really true, though? Sit down, make a list, and reevaluate what you have going. You may need to hit pause (or delete) on a few things so you can keep your sanity and maintain your health.
- Slow down. In this fast-paced world we live in, we want everything done quickly and we want it done right, and when that doesn’t happen, we are not happy. Lighten up and slow down. Everything doesn’t need to happen quickly, and if it takes you longer to do something than usually, it’s probably okay.
- Wake up earlier. I recently started reading a book that shares tips about developing a morning routine, and it really is making a difference in how I approach my day. Waking up 1-2 hours before my kids has made all the difference and it allows me to start my day feeling calm and relaxed. Definitely a good look.
- Vent. I am all about expressing frustrations in a productive manner, but let’s be real—sometimes you just need to vent. Pick a friend you can trust, pick up the phone (or meet up) and tell her that you just need a quick venting session so you can get the tension out of your system. A little venting can do us all some good.
- Plan a vacation. When you are in a stressful space, thinking about something you are looking forward to is a great idea. Even if you don’t have the cash to do it big this year, map out any plans you have in the coming months to do something fun and relaxing, and then visualize it. I promise it will make you smile.
- Drink more water. When we are dehydrated, we feel tired. I don’t know about you, but I am just no good when I am tired. When you feel drained (and annoyed) grab a glass of water. It’s easy to do and it really does make a difference.
Martine Foreman is a freelance writer, lifestyle blogger, speaker and coach. To follow her journey as a busy mom, wife, and honest chick from Brooklyn, NY (now living in the burbs), check out her personal blog, CandidBelle.
Our bodies react to stress in a plethora of different ways. Even some forms of hair loss are associated with high-stress levels. But what about graying hair? Is it true that these physical and mental burdens also cause your hair to change color, perhaps prematurely? It appears that the answer could be both yes and no, depending on how you interpret things.
“Hair follicles contain melanocytes, which are cells that produce pigment, called melanin,” New York-based dermatologist Dr. Hadley King told Good Housekeeping.
The older you get, the less melanin your body produces, which results in gray and white hair. According to King, the age at which melanin production drops off is mainly determined by genetics; however poor habits like smoking or skipping on vitamin B can accelerate this process in some instances. As for stress, Dr. King had this to say:
“Stress may accelerate the demise of the melanocyte population though no clear link has been established between gray hair and stress,” says Dr. King. “Stress hormones could cause inflammation that drives the production of free radicals and it is possible that these free radicals could influence melanin production.”
Whether gray hair is a concern for you or not, there are countless reasons why you should minimize stress when possible. Click here to learn how.
by Yolanda Darville
“Cook the turkey and ham, see if Cynthia is baking the pies, clean the house, make sure I have games for the kids, call Uncle Joe to pick up Grandma in time for dinner, yada, yada, yada. . .”
That’s the inner monologue of most of us super-mamas as we prepare for Thanksgiving. While the Butterball turkey commercial shows serene moms preparing meals in anticipation of a peaceful family Thanksgiving meal, that scenario is far from true for most of us. Honestly, for many of us the holidays are just plain STRESSFUL!
And there’s good reason! Holidays bring lots of pressure. Often sparks fly as family members who feud all year gather together for hours at a time. There’s a huge pressure to prepare a delicious meal. And then there are dozens of screaming nieces and nephews running around the house. Not to mention the finances involved with big family gatherings. And guess who gets to coordinate it all? That’s right, mama – it’s you!
According to the Mayo Clinic, holiday stress is extremely common. But you don’t have to just smile, and pretend to be the holiday version of Wonder Woman. There are several easy things you can do to de-stress your Thanksgiving. Here are a few tips:
Own your feelings. If you have a case of the “holiday blues,” it’s okay. Acknowledge your feelings. Faking happiness during the holidays won’t help you become happier. But taking time to recognize your own feelings are the first step to feeling better.
Don’t try to be a superhero. Thanksgiving is about gathering with family and friends and giving thanks. It’s not about stressing yourself out to have a perfect holiday. Be sure to delegate various holiday preparation tasks to family members. There’s no reason for you to do everything yourself.
Let bygones be bygones. Thanksgiving is a great time to lay aside differences with family members. Instead of spending time fuming over past arguments, focus on how thankful you are to have your family altogether.
Make a budget and stick to it. You can’t buy holiday happiness, so don’t grow broke trying. Stay within your means when shopping for the Thanksgiving meal. And if the projected bill seems overwhelming, call on other family members to do their part.
Keep up your healthy behaviors. Continue to eat right and exercise as Thanksgiving approaches. It will boost your mood and help you handle stress. According to Psychology Today, regular exercise has the same effect on brain chemistry as prescription antidepressants!
So now you’re ready to take on Thanksgiving. Be sure to pass the turkey, but skip the holiday stress.
Mommies, what’s your favorite tip for staying cool during the holidays?
Yolanda Darville is a mom, writer, communications strategist and blogger focusing on philanthropy and empowering women. Learn more about her on her blog www.bahamamommyinc.com .
We parents always delight about our ‘little blessings’ to each other and how our lives would be so different without them, but we also know what a pain in the butt is it to be a mom. Honestly.
Word is, someone out there agrees and this study says parents are miserable.
Researchers at the University of Western Ontario and the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research wanted to figure out why some families decide to stop at having only one child. So they analyzed data from a German survey that covered more than 20,000 people across the country, and tracked their reported well-being from three years before having kids to at least two years after their first child was born.
According to the Washington Post, 30 percent of parents stayed at the same level of happiness. But on a 1 to 10 scale, 37 percent of parents had a one-unit drop in “happiness units,” while 19 percent had a two-unit drop and 17 percent had a three-unit drop.
To compare that to actual sad life events: Unemployment and the death of a partner usually lead to a one-unit drop in happiness, and divorce only causes a 0.6-unit drop. On average, parenthood leads to a whopping 1.4-unit fall in happiness.
But what does that say about people who only drop one-unit when their partner dies?
What was found in the study, published in the journal Demography, is that unhappiness stemmed from three main causes: health issues before and after birth, complications during the birth, and the generally exhausting and physically taxing task of raising a child.
The researchers also found that parents’ experiences and emotional states when they have their first child strongly impact whether or not they’ll go on to have more kids. If you stay happy more than a year after your first child is born, you’re more likely to have baby number 2. (Which makes sense: Why keep doing something that makes you unhappy?)
Older parents, and those with higher levels of education, were more likely to stop at one child if they had a bad experience.
That leads us to also wonder: why do people have kids in the first place? Is it pressure from families or society? Or are they trying to fill a void within themselves?
As two ladies from the MN team prepare to say “I do,” they share what they’re learning about their relationships, the wedding-planning process, and themselves.
When I first shared the news of my engagement with members of my church choir back in July, one of the members who had just tied the knot a few months prior told me to enjoy the moment. I interpreted her statements as one of those things people just say when you announce that you’re getting married. I didn’t think too deeply about it.
But as I left the church later that afternoon, prepping for the ensemble’s summer break (the entire month of August), she walked up to me and said it again. This time, with a lot more conviction: “Seriously, Victoria, enjoy this moment. Don’t worry about planning or anything like that yet. Just take the time to be happy first.” I said that I would and proceeded to head home, a skip in my step, eyeing the sparkle on my left ring finger.
I didn’t realize it then, but she was so right about taking the time to enjoy the moment. Appreciate the high you find yourself on, because ever since I opened my first bridal magazine and started answering “So, when are you getting married?” questions, I’ve been stressed. Very stressed.
And when I say stressed, I don’t mean the kind of anxiety where you take a deep sigh each time the word “wedding” comes up in a conversation. I’m talking head in my hands, low-key sobbing stressed. I’ve had about three of those episodes since July. They’ve all come about over changes in the things my fiancé said he wanted for the ceremony, some stress-inducing statements from soon-to-be in-laws, and the reminder that you can’t have a wedding without alcohol. And alcohol costs money. I don’t even drink!
The realization of all the things weddings entail has left me exasperated. Did I mention I’ve only been engaged and planning this whole shebang for a little over a month now?
When I shared this anxiety with people, most gave me the “Awww, it’s going to be fine” response. But my mother, well, she’s the type to give it to you straight.
“I don’t know now. If you’re finding yourself crying about wedding planning this soon, you might be going about this whole thing wrong.”
And that’s what I’ve been trying to figure out. What am I doing and for whom? What is it that I really want for my wedding day? My opinions change daily. I told my mother early on, even before I was engaged, that when I got married, I would want to keep things small. Inexpensive dress, small guest count, money saved small. But ever since I became Feyoncé Knowles, I’ve been planning a wedding for other people. What I mean by that is I’ve been trying to do things in the hopes of not disappointing folks. I’ve looked into overpriced, grandiose reception halls. I’ve worried about inconveniencing friends and family members who would possibly have to drive 30 minutes from a church to a reception hall. I’ve thought about buying rental shuttles to help people get around. I’ve drastically limited my choices in available venues by assuming that people would say that you can’t have a reception where you wear traditional Nigerian garb but don’t have Nigerian food (halls don’t play when it comes to outside catering). And I’ve been doing this all on a budget of thousands of dollars that I don’t currently have sitting in my bank or savings account, or in my Monopoly board game box for that matter. Now do you see why I’m stressed?
They tell you that wedding planning is stressful, but you don’t realize how tiring it is until you actually have to set things in motion. Even looking for a planner and setting aside the money to pay them is a task in and of itself. So with all that going on, and after multiple cry-it-out sessions, I’ve decided to take a break from the whole process. I’ve realized that until I know for sure what it is I really want for my big day, as well as the final list of things my surprisingly choosy fiancé is hoping for, my planning is useless. I’m going to be doing useless hours of research and finding myself in a crying corner over and over again. So it’s time to start again. From scratch.
With that being said, I’m back to square one. And I’m mentally back to where I was a little over a month ago when my fiancé popped the question on the floor in his living room. I’m doing what I should have truly done then. I’m enjoying the moment. I’m enjoying talking to the love of my life about the fun and silly things we’ve always conversed about, the politics we’ve always debated on. Going out for ice cream cones. Dancing with him and our friends over Jollof rice and Gulder. Laying on the couch watching An Officer and a Gentleman, singing “Up Where We Belong” together off-key. I’m appreciating this peaceful time, and when I have my mind and my money right, as well as more hands-on help in research from my fiancé, wedding planning will reconvene and be in full swing. Before I lose my shit and my relationship, I need to focus more time on continuing to nurture the partnership my fiancé and I have. Because while a wedding is a beautiful and memorable thing, I need to do more planning, research and work to prepare for what comes after.
We spend more than one-third of our days working, so it’s no wonder employees can feeling stressed, burnt out, and exhausted.
Sound familiar? Well, the solution is easy.
Science says, get up and take a work break. Just make sure it’s the right kind of break—the type that leaves you feeling energized and focused. Researchers from Baylor University explain exactly what you should do when you tell your boss you need to “take 10.”
The researchers surveyed 95 employees between the ages of 22 and 67 over the course of a five-day workweek, and asked them to record the breaks they took during the day. These breaks could be formal (like a lunch) or informal (like a coffee run or email catch-up), and essentially covered any activity that was not work-related (not including bathroom breaks).
Each person averaged two breaks per day, and from the 959 breaks recorded, scientists were able to figure out several key factors that make a successful workday break. The findings were published in the Work.
First, the best time to press pause is mid-morning. “When more hours had elapsed since the beginning of the work shift, fewer resources and more symptoms of poor health were reported after a break,” reads the study. The best breaks involved activities that employees enjoyed—the catch is, those tasks could also be somewhat work-related. The only requirement is that you derive pleasure from the task.
Additionally, while you may find a two-hour break enticing, scientists found that short, frequent breaks were most beneficial—although they didn’t pinpoint an exact length of time.
“Unlike your cell phone, which popular wisdom tells us should be depleted to zero percent before you charge it fully to 100 percent, people instead need to charge more frequently throughout the day,” lead author Emily Hunter, Ph.D., said in a statement.
Successful work breaks resulted in better health and higher job satisfaction for employees—“successful” being defined as earlier in the day, and by doing something enjoyable…like taking a break to catch up on MadameNoire.com. Scientists saw those people had fewer symptoms of headache, eyestrain, or lower back pain following the break. There was also a decrease in burnout.
So go ahead and take that quick coffee or tea break. You deserve it, and you’ll work smarter.