10 Ways To Take a Mental “Vacation” While You’re At Work

Ever feel like there’s no possible way to squeeze in a quick stress break at work? Given the hazards of not doing so, such as back pain from prolonged periods of sitting or standing or making serious errors in the workplace, taking even a five to ten minute break must be a priority. After reading the list below, you’ll be surprised at how accessible, and valuable, a stress break can be.

1. Stuck at a desk?

Consider it your new piece of exercise equipment for your core. Merely standing up, leaning forward, and supporting yourself with outstretched arms can put you into a plank position. That helps strengthen your abdominal muscles and protect you from back pain.

2. Hungry?

Don’t let hypoglycemia, low blood sugar, and drag you down. Keep healthy snacks accessible. Hummus and crackers, yogurt, or bite-sized balls packed with nuts, seeds, and peanut butter are just a few of the many protein-rich snacks to keep your energy on track throughout the day. On the flip side, avoid sweet foods or drinks that will spike your sugar levels only to lead to a crash that leaves you feeling depleted of energy.

3. Going cross-eyed or having blurry vision?

Taking a break from the computer screen is essential. Spend a few moments looking out the window, or even better, go outside. Fresh air is necessary for tired eyes that have been strained for hours on end staring at a computer.

4. Need to take your mind off of work?

Find a colleague with whom you can have a short non-work related conversation. Ask them about their plans after work, on the weekend, or how their family is. Taking a short break from work topics can help improve your concentration when you return to work.

5. Need a laugh?

Allow yourself (during your allotted break time) a quick comedic stress break. Watch a ten-minute comedy sketch on YouTube, such as Saturday Night Live or late night talk shows. As a bonus, you won’t feel compelled to stay up late watching these later in the night. Even cat videos can provide a much needed moment of humor.

6. Feeling exhausted?

Get outside for ten minutes. A walk around the parking lot or the block does not need to take long, and it can give you a boost of fresh air and energy. There’s nothing like fresh air to reduce stress and clear the mind.

7. Is your mind racing?

Take a few moments to meditate. Meditation has been shown to decrease anxiety from stress and improve sleep. You don’t need to be a yoga guru to meditate. Close your eyes or try staring at a spot on the wall or floor and think of nothing else. For added support, consider using an app for guided meditation or playing relaxation music from your phone or computer. All it takes is five to ten minutes of focusing on, well, nothing to clear the mind.

8. Having tight shoulders and a stiff neck?

Incorporate ten minutes of yoga into your day. You may be surprised by how much ‘yoga in a chair’ you can discover with a simple Google search. Or, review standing yoga poses that don’t require you to get down on a potentially dirty ground at work. Overhead stretches and neck stretches are both entirely doable in a small space. Remember, if anything starts to hurt pull back on the intensity and check with your healthcare provider with what is right for you.

9. Didn’t get enough sleep last night?

As long as you won’t jeopardize your employment status, allow yourself a cat-nap. You can do it in your office, in your car, or in any quiet space available at work. A ten-minute siesta can help re-energize to get through your day. Remember to avoid getting into a napping routine as this may disrupt your overall quality of sleep at nighttime.

10. Need outside contact?

Call a friend or family member. Sometimes being with colleagues all day can make it difficult to get away from shop-talk. Touch base with someone from outside of your work-world to take a mental stress break from work-related topics.

No matter what method you choose, a periodic break at work is essential for maintaining focus, stamina, and quality work production. Keep in my mind what is acceptable within your employee contract, such as not using a computer for outside purposes on breaks, as well as any physical limitations and precautions you may need to take. Prioritizing your mental health throughout your career will allow you to avoid preventable work-place burnout for a longer, more satisfying career.