Give Your Brain a Break!
As a business owner, you often have little down time. But even if you can’t take a vacation, it’s important to relax and recharge. Even taking a short intermission can boost productivity by giving your brain a break.
While it might sound counter intuitive, taking time to relax can actually make you more efficient. The science behind taking small breaks says being calmer and happier releases dopamine which can be important for increasing your creativity according to Alice Flaherty, an associate professor of neurology and psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.
Here are a few ways to take a mini escape while managing a business.
Got a minute?
Try the 4-7-8 breathing technique. Researchers have found this method helps quickly relax the body’s central nervous system by having a longer exhale than inhale.
- Start by making an audible exhale of all the air in your lungs.
- Close your mouth and slowly inhale your breath, through your nose for a count of four seconds.
- Hold your breath for a count of seven seconds.
- Open your mouth and audibly exhale for a count of eight.
- Repeat the cycle several times.
Got 2 minutes?
Do calisthenics for beginners with a 2-minute workout. These simple body weight-bearing exercises are known for building lean muscles and help feel energized by clearing your bloodstream to reduce stress.
Here’s what Cari Shoemate, co-creator of Bombshell Bootcamp in Houston, recommended to the Daily Burn to get your heart rate going and rejuvenate your sluggish body if you’ve been staring at a computer for too long.
Do: 25 jumping jacks, 25 wall or desk push-ups, 25 alternating lunges, 25 squats
Here’s other tips from Karl Erickson, a retired green beret who spent nearly 20 years in Army Special Forces.
Got 5 minutes?
To mediate, start by finding a relaxed seated position on a chair or on the floor. Keep your back upright, but not too tense, with your hands resting in a comfortable position, says Diana Winston of Mindful.org.
Listen to this 5-minute meditation by Winston to help guide you through an experience.
Got 10 minutes?
Take a walk in some green space. Being in nature can reap big rewards. It can improve your attention span and rejuvenate your body. Gazing at nature can make you more productive.
That’s according to a 2015 study by British Journal of Sports Medicine which found people can reduce brain fatigue by walking a half-mile through a park.
Got 15 minutes?
Try doing progressive muscle relaxation. Also called PMR, this deep-relaxation technique helps people with chronic pain, but it can also help with relaxing your body by reducing stress and anxiety.
The idea is to tense and relax your muscles, one muscle group at a time.
- Start by taking some deep breaths in and out to notice how your muscles feel when they’re relaxed.
- Then go muscle group by muscle group through the body. There are a variety of ways to do this.
- Some people start with tightening the muscles in their forehand, scrunching their eyebrows up as high as they can, holding for 5-15 seconds, then taking longer to release between 15-30 seconds.
- Other people like to start seated in a chair. With their right arm at a 90 degree angle, make a tight fist and hold. Focus on what that tension feels like for 10-15 seconds. Exhale and slowly release the tension in your fist for 20-30 seconds to let your arm fully relax.
The key is to take longer to relax your body than the time you spending in a tense position.
Got 30 minutes?
Consider de-cluttering your work space or have a meeting outside of your usual workspace during a 30-minute period. Maybe it’s catching up with a colleague or friend over coffee.
The Harvard Business Review says having a 30-minute meeting makes everyone more attentive and focused which can yield better results thanks to its compressed time frame.
As Peter Bregman writes, people are less likely to skip a 30 minute meeting and having such a short meeting, “Hones the skill of getting to the point quickly, focusing on the most essential elements of a situation, and taking action.”
Bregman says he uses this technique for working out, for meetings or tackling other tasks with an intensity that then lets him stretch out the unstructured time he spends with his family, meals with his friends, for writing and for sleep which makes him more productive both personally and professionally.
Got 60 minutes?
Go to the gym, run an errand, read a book (which can lower your heart rate) or enjoy a long lunch break. Just do something away from the computer screen to clear your mind and bring something to write down ideas.
As productivity coach Deb Lee told Stephanie Vozza of Fast Company, “Use the time to do a ‘brain dump,’ which can help get things off of your mind and on paper where they can be looked at more objectively. If you have a big project coming up, organize your thoughts in writing.”