Do you remember your parents telling you "I'm just resting my eyes for a minute"? I would catch my mom or dad at different times throughout my childhood sitting upright with their eyes closed while the lunchtime news (or favorite afternoon talk show) was on TV in the background. When I was young, I didn't understand the value of these short "rest breaks" they made time for throughout their days. I remember thinking "What a waste of time!" Now as an adult, I am impressed with their ability to shut down for a few moments knowing there were more household tasks to do, kids to take care of, food to prepare and cook, and work that needed to be done.
Now that I am an adult working at home with a household of active children and a growing and demanding business, I have started to appreciate and value the importance of mini rest breaks sprinkled throughout my day. Putting downtime into my day has become an essential part of energy management. Breaks can be very refreshing and prevent "decision fatigue." Making time to rest and step away from my work also helps me continue to stay focused and productive throughout the day.
In addition to increased productivity, rest breaks help reset my mood if I am in a funk. I can take a step back from the thoughts spiraling around in my mind and consider the bigger picture or situation. Closing my eyes and taking a few deep breaths helps calm my nervous system and eases me into a reflective state. Pausing and moving away from those strong feelings of stress helps me put things in perspective.
Science writer Ferris Jabr summarizes the benefits of breaks in this Scientific American article: "Downtime replenishes the brain’s stores of attention and motivation, encourages productivity and creativity, and is essential to both achieve our highest levels of performance and simply form stable memories in everyday life. A wandering mind unsticks us in time so that we can learn from the past and plan for the future. Moments of respite may even be necessary to keep one’s moral compass in working order and maintain a sense of self."
Our brains need more downtime.
That familiar ache you feel in your head between 2 and 4 PM that makes it harder to focus and concentrate? It is a signal from the body letting you know it is full and needs some downtime. We spend so much of our day receiving and managing information than actually using the data to do our jobs. Downtime, daydreaming, and idleness is not just for vacation. It is as important to the brain as Vitamin D is to the body. Creating moments to help the brain decompress gives it an opportunity to make sense of what it has learned and strengthens our memory.
You can sneak in healthy, "mini rest breaks" throughout your day as my parents did.
Go for a walk to move and stretch your body.
Connect to nature and feel the elements on your face.
Change your environment and shift your perspective.
Eat a healthy snack or drink a cup of tea.
Take a few deep breaths with your eyes closed and connect to your senses.
Pet your animal.
Get creative by drawing or doodling.
Listen to music.
Think of these "mini rest breaks" not as one more thing to do, but a way you can relax in all of the in-between moments of your day. The next time your child asks you to sit with them while their favorite cartoon is on, close your eyes and let them know you are "just resting your eyes for a minute."