Give yourself a break!!

Give yourself a break!!

by Robin Eijsermans, coach at TU/e Career Academy

These days it is common to be online all day long. If it’s not sitting behind your computer to follow an online lecture, it’s walking with your phone in one hand answering some WhatsApp messages or checking out the latest post on Instagram.

For most of us there is very limited offline time, time to reset your mind and renew your energy levels. A way to prevent a burned-out feeling at the end of the day is practicing some cognitive fitness.

What mindfulness can do for you

A very powerful way to train your brain is by practicing some mindfulness. Being mindful is being present in the moment, fully aware of all your thoughts, feelings and emotions. It allows us to observe them without being judgmental, and to accept things as they are. By doing so it will be less easy for negative thoughts or worries to take over.

This requires some practice because often our minds are used to be far away from the present moment, worrying about things that happened in the past or might happen in the future.

To practice being more mindful, you can help yourself by making your environment less distracting. A simple adjustment is to change the settings on your phone to mute all notifications, for example. But if you’re struggling to focus, you may benefit from a mindful break.

There are different forms of creating a mindful break for yourself depending on what it is your body and mind need in that moment. You can think of a short breathing meditation for more relaxation and calmness. Or a walking meditation for more energy and balance.

Studies show that it is healthy to take a cognitive timeout: it creates more focus and better results. But between knowing what is good for you and actually putting it into practice there is often a big gap. Below, you can get some inspiration of what you can do for your cognitive timeout.

Ways to create a mindful break

  • Walking

Try to start your workday with a 15-minute walk or go out for a lunch walk. Literally going away from your desk will clear your mind. The movement will allow your brain to reset, get new energy and new focus.

  • Being in nature/observing nature

Being around nature will calm the mind. Try to smell and observe nature during a walk through the park or near a forest. Inhale the fresh air revitalizing your body and brain.

  • Yoga

Try yoga. Stretching on the mat is a good way to practice being more mindful. You need some focus to be able to stand in different postures, and that forces you to be in the present moment. On YouTube there is a free yoga channel, “Yoga with Adriene” which has a lot of nice short yoga sessions.

  • (Guided) meditation

Mindful meditation is a great way to train the brain to have better focus, it can be as simple as finding a moment of stillness. If you’re struggling, you can follow a guided meditation. An app that can help you getting started is Headspace; it has both short and long guided meditations in different themes.

  • Music

Listen to your favorite song. Do this without getting distracted by your phone or your computer. Listening to music stimulates the part of the brain which is responsible for remembering new information, processing emotions and focusing.

  • Eating

Instead of eating your breakfast or lunch without noticing any taste and structure. Take the time to prepare a nice meal and enjoy every bit of the preparation and the process of eating it. Feel the textures, smell it etc. Don’t let yourself get distracted by your phone of your computer. Simply focus on the meal itself.

  • Do something with 100% attention

Take an activity you do on a regular base, but this time do it with full attention. Things you can think of are for example taking a shower, or brushing your teeth. Really focus on the activity instead of wondering off thinking about what the day will bring.

  • Toilet break

Use your toilet break as a moment for a short breathing meditation. Take 3 minutes to focus on your breathing. Focusing on the way your belly rises and falls during each breath you take. Especially when working in a crowded office, this can be a nice way to calm yourself.

Tips to help your breaks

  • No screens: It is important to really detach from work during your break. No phone, laptop and other distraction and preferably enjoy a break outside, fresh air, no screens.
  • Start small: Five mindful minutes a day will already make a difference!
  • Mindful token: Pick a physical reminder that will help you to remember to take that mindful break. Pick something that makes you happy and which you see every day.  

In this article I have shared some practical tips to help you create a mindful break during your day, a great habit that can boost your energy levels for the last quartile of this academic year!

Want to learn more about being mindful during study and work?

My physical reminder to take a mindful break! Photo: R. Eijsermans

3 thoughts on “Give yourself a break!!

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