Give Me a Break

Taking breaks during your workday is one of the best things you can do for your health — and your job.

Between phone calls, meetings, deadlines and last-minute projects, work is a constant race against the clock. But if your busy schedule is causing you to work through lunch and never leave your desk, you could be doing more harm than good. Here are four perks of taking regular breaks throughout the day:

1. Increased focus and productivity. Research shows removing yourself from your work for short periods of time helps refresh your brain, making you more creative and efficient when you return to your tasks. A recent study found that the most productive 10 percent of employees didn’t put in longer hours at the office. In fact, they worked slightly less than the average employee because they took more breaks — 17-minute breaks for every 52 minutes of work, to be exact. But even a few minutes of downtime can be effective.

“If your job is high-pressure with a lot of moment-to-moment demands, the risk of burnout can be high,” says Timothy McGuire, M.D., a family medicine physician at Timothy McGuire, M.D. in Denton and on the medical staff at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Denton and . “Stepping away from those demands makes you more efficient, especially if that downtime includes some type of physical activity such as walking or stretching.”

2. Less stress. It seems counterintuitive to take a break when your work piles up, but the stress caused by that growing list of to-dos makes you much less capable of completing tasks in a timely manner. Taking a break from work lowers your stress, which not only makes you more productive, but also decreases your likelihood of developing chronic anxiety and depression.

“If your work environment is loud and chaotic, it’s important to extricate yourself to a quieter place, preferably outside,” Dr. McGuire says. “Listen to music, walk around the building or just close your eyes and rest — whatever helps you relax.”

3. Protection from eyestrain. Staring at your computer for long stretches of time increases your risk for computer vision syndrome, the symptoms of which include eyestrain, headaches, blurred vision, dry eyes, and neck and shoulder pain. The American Optometric Association recommends resting your eyes for 15 minutes after two hours of computer use to help prevent eyestrain.

4. Lower risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sitting down for extended periods of time is a risk factor for developing a clot in the deep veins of your legs — a condition known as DVT. In some cases, DVT can lead to pulmonary embolism, a potentially fatal event. Getting up and walking around increases blood flow in your legs, which can keep leg clots from forming.

When Every Second Counts

Can’t find time for a break? Take “micro-breaks” for as little as 30 seconds at a time. During a micro-break, you can:

  • Stretch your muscles.
  • Walk from one end of the office to the other.
  • Focus on deep, slow breathing to reduce stress.
  • Run in place to get your heart rate up.

Physicians employed by Texas Health Physicians Group practice independently and are not employees of the hospital or Texas Health Resources.

 

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