The other day I experienced one of those classic, "I've had just about enough of this" kind of days. A potential client called to be referred to an attorney. By the time that person got to me, they were frustrated to the max. I asked them to tell me a little bit about what's going on in the hopes that together we could figure out what I could do to help. The flood gates opened. Sometimes folks just need an ear -- someone to listen. Other times, all my skills go right out the window. It's as if the planets align or the moon phase is at a critical point and that person winds up hollering or cursing because they find themselves in a situation I can't fix for them. When I've had a few of those calls back-to-back, or a particularly nasty encounter, then it's time for me to invoke Dr. Benjamin Spock.
Some of you may be familiar with the doctor. Some may not. If your response was, "Who?" -- ask your mother or look him up online. As a young military wife with a newborn baby and very little in the way of a support network, Dr. Spock was my guy. He was all I had.
When my tiny daughter would cry for what seemed like forever for no reason, out came the Dr. Spock book with the checklists. No, she wasn't hurt, she wasn't hungry, she wasn't wet, she didn't have a diaper rash, she didn't want the pacifier, and she didn't want me to rock her, walk her, swaddle her, pat her, or burp her. None of the above. On to my last resort. I set the kitchen timer for 20 minutes. I laid the baby in her crib. I walked out of the room, shut the door and sat down. Gut-wrenching guilt. Sit and wait I did. A few minutes later I realized she stopped crying. There was no noise. Panic. I'd go into the bedroom to make sure she was still breathing. I found a sleeping baby. Back to the kitchen to turn off the timer and breathe a sigh of relief. When all else failed -- that worked -- which brings us to today's article....
We all know that the holiday season is fertile ground for additional stress so now is a good time to check in on your mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional state. We're going to talk about re-setting your timer and how to take a break.
Oops. Wait a minute. Did you just say you don't take breaks? Please. Give me a break. When asked, "What are some of the things you do when you take a break?"-- the best answers to that question come from those who say they don't take breaks. So what's a good way to take a break when you're feeling like you've had just about enough?
Consider yoga. Lately, my boss has been bothered by muscle pain and stiffness. His son gave him a DVD of yoga exercises to try. In addition to sore muscles, he's been dealing with sinus problems off and on for the last month and a half. He was skeptical at first, but gave it a try. He had nothing to lose. Something unexpected happened. Darn-near a miracle! For the first time in a long time, he slept through the night. When he got up, he didn't have a sore, dry throat and his sinuses were clear. He could breathe again. What a bonus! He saved himself a trip to the doctor for sinus medicine. You can do these yoga exercises in your office and some while sitting at your desk. You can find the DVD at The Himalayan Institute website. Don't knock it until you try it.
After my boss told me about his experience, I asked some of my co-workers to tell me how they cope with brain overload and what kinds of things they do when they need a break.
Many of them talked about literally removing themselves from the office. Walking was the preferred method. Going window-shopping, going to the park, taking a stroll on a green trail, going to the library, walking down the street to a coffee shop are all kinds of activities that will give you a breather. In those instances, you can be among people -- without much interaction.
Sick and tired of eating your lunch in front of your computer? Craving some lively conversation? When was the last time you went out to eat? Make a lunch date with a friend or a family member. You don't have to discuss your work. There are other things to talk about. Feel the need to ventilate? Talk out your frustrations with someone you trust over lunch. Consider ordering comfort food if you're in the mood for reassurance. In the mood to take a risk? Go to a different place and order something new from the menu. You may find you love Thai food but you won't know that until you try.
Remember Mr. Rogers? It may be a beautiful day in the neighborhood...but do you know your neighbor? If you work in a building with other tenants, maybe it's time you introduce yourself. Work in a small office downtown or in a strip mall? Have you met the other people there? If you're an attorney or you work for an attorney -- a networking opportunity is staring you in the face. Don't forget to take along some business cards.
Go for a drive -- with a purpose in mind. Try grocery shopping over your lunch hour. Go for a drive with absolutely no destination in mind. Drive with your radio or CD blasting and sing along. Listen to classical music to soothe your frayed nerves. Screaming talk radio might just be what you need to relax. Roll down the windows and turn off the radio. A short road trip may lift your gloomy spirits.
Prefer to stay inside? Weather too crappy to get out? Working on a Sudoku puzzle or crossword may ease your tension. Play a mind-numbing computer game for 15 minutes. Taking a half hour to read one or two chapters of a book might just be what you need. Are you a Kindle kind of reader? Do you know there's an app for that?
Stuck? Suffering from writer's block? Those budget figures still not making any sense to you? Having trouble coming up with new ideas for that project you're working on? Having difficulty thinking outside of the box you find yourself in? Best answer? Get up and move.
Just getting up from your desk to get a cup of coffee, tea, or to get a soda isn't really taking a break -- but when you make a slight detour and add 10 minutes of conversation with someone else to that mix -- then you've taken a break. You've interrupted your current thinking pattern and that may be all you need.
Taking a break from your work now and again is serious business. Giving yourself permission to take a break may be the best thing you can do for yourself -- and for others.
If you have any other interesting ways to take a break, feel free to share them with the rest of us! Your comments are always welcome!