3 Unconventional Mind-Cleansing Breaks Only Remote Workers Can Take
Take care of your attention span. Without it, no healthy, quality work can be done.
There is nonsense to the way most people take their break. Your job involves focusing and staring at a screen. When you spend your break scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, or even Medium, what are you doing?
You’re focusing and staring at a screen again.
The concept of taking a break was born out of a need to recharge your attention span and work capacity. Not to drain it further. To renew your focus, you need to break the cycle. Not to use other valuable attention points (you’ve got only 100, remember?).
“Our brains have two functioning modes: focused, and ‘diffused’. Some studies have shown that we solve our most difficult problems when we’re in this diffused state — for example, how many times have you happened upon a great idea when you’re daydreaming in the shower?” — CIPHR
Here are my three favorite breaks. If you’re not a remote worker, you can still try them, but I decline responsibility for any issues with your boss.
“Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets… It is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.” — Tim Kreider
№1: 10 minutes of meditative movement
Getting out of your head and into your body allows you to deeply relieve your attention span. It makes you aware of your reality and your environment again and increases your energy levels by getting your blood flowing a bit.
“Your mind and body are intimately connected. By working out or going on a meditative walk by yourself, you may gain access to a ‘back door’ to the mental changes that you desire without having to ‘psych yourself’ into feeling better.” — Health Harvard
But when I’m in the middle of my work session, I don’t feel like changing clothes, going out and sweating, and then having to shower before getting back to my desk. My productivity would take a hit.
I found the solution. It takes 10 minutes, doesn’t demand you to change clothes (or, if you’re feeling a little tight, just get into your underwear), and doesn’t require anything other than a small mat.
I alternate between qigong and stretching. Both consist of meditative movements: as you move, you pay attention to your body sensations, your position in space, and your feelings, allowing you to disconnect completely from the work you were doing before. It is as if you are using a completely different part of your brain while your work brain goes into a deep rest.
You can easily find guided videos on YouTube. Personally, I practice Qigong on this website and stretching on the Fitify app. Both have shown an impressive renewal of my concentration skills when I get back to work.
№2: Two minutes of going crazy
I have no idea what this practice is called, or if it even has a name. I discovered it while participating in a sound healing session in Costa Rica. This session mainly involved meditation, but first, we had to get rid of tensions and negative energies.
Very upbeat electronic music was played, and we were invited to start moving and letting our body do whatever it wanted. At first, I felt shy, and just moved awkwardly from one foot to the other. But as I opened my eyes and looked around, I saw that people were totally liberated. They were jumping up and down, throwing their arms in the air, and doing all kinds of crazy movements in a kind of trance. They didn’t care what anyone else thought. Anyway, everyone had their eyes closed. I started to let go. And it felt amazing. A few tears even rolled down my cheeks. After that, I felt like my head was clearer than ever.
“You appear to get a much bigger release of endorphins when you dance than during other forms of exercise; it also connects with the emotional centres in the brain. For many people, dancing prompts an emotional release — often that’s uncomplicated happiness, while for some it can make them cry. It’s cathartic — a letting go of pent-up emotions,” explains dance psychologist Dr Peter Lovatt of the University of Hertfordshire, to The Telegraph.
I never knew what the music was called. But you can do that on just about any song you like. Highlight Tribe might be a good place to start.
Close your eyes. Let the vibrations enter your body. And go crazy. Preferably, don’t do that in the middle of the office while your colleagues look on in awe.
№3: 10 minutes of going blank
Meditation is not an unconventional exercise. But when it comes to taking a break, it’s not the first thing you think of. This is a shame because it’s one of the best ways to completely unfocus. Allow your attention, your brain, your eyes to just… relax.
Look at your hand, and clench your fist. This is your mind when it needs a break. Meditating will slowly open your fist until it returns to a relaxed position.
Sit down somewhere. The lotus position is not mandatory. Close your eyes. And focus on your breathing or the sound of the refrigerator. When you feel your attention slipping and going to thoughts, gently bring it back. At first, this can be incredibly difficult. But as you practice, you will get better and better.
When you open your eyes again, you’ll feel like you’ve traveled to another world, whether for 2, 5, or 10 minutes.
Take care of your attention span. Without it, no healthy, quality work can be done. I have found that after writing two articles, I need to take a break. I feel it in my forehead, there is some kind of weight located up there.
One of these three methods, for no more than 10 minutes, and I’m ready to punch the keyboard again.