TAKE TIME TO RECHARGE
Taking time throughout the day is one of the best self care strategies we can think of. The reality is that we can’t keep spending energy. At some stage we need to recover energy. If we want to operate with full focus, maintain our mental health and wellbeing, and keep our physical and emotional wellness in balance, then this is one of the best ideas for self care. But how can we recharge during the day? Here are 10 recharge strategies you can use right now and why you need them.
RECOVERY AS A SELF CARE STRATEGY
Recovery Breaks Modulate Stress Hormones
Recovery breaks make up part of a great self care plan, by modulating our stress levels. Most days, our stress hormones like adrenalin and cortisol increase throughout the day as we pile on more work and more urgency. But when we take moments to stop and recharge throughout the day, it gives those stress chemicals a chance to settle back down before they most likely start to rise again. Just taking these short recover breaks (you’ll learn more later) is one of the great self care tips as it starts to relieve stress and anxiety.
Recovery Helps Mental Health and Wellbeing
Recovery breaks also help us maintain our mental health and wellbeing. If you’re familiar with some of the strategies for managing mental health then you’ll realise it involves changing your thoughts and actions – and these are mentally taxing activities. When we factor recharge breaks into our day as part of a self care plan, we can continue to execute on these mental health strategies because we give our brain a chance to keep operating at it’s peak.
"when we take moments to stop and recharge throughout the day, it gives those stress chemicals a chance to settle back down"
RECOVERY AS A PERFORMANCE STRATEGY
We don’t just spend energy exercising and walking to the coffee shop. We also spend mental energy every day and, just like our muscles, our brain needs time to rest and recover this energy if it wants to keep on keeping on.
Think of the things we need to spend energy on:
Focusing our attention and performing at our best; keeping our mind sharp to help our mental health and resilience; controlling our emotions and behaviours; prioritising and making great decisions throughout the day; problem solving. All these things are mentally taxing.
When we try to keep doing these things optimally all day, we eventually start to burn out. In fact, research shows that we can only maintain our peak mental capacity for 90 minutes - after that every single marker of performance declines: self-control, focused attention, problem solving, even reaction time. Have you ever found that you can only maintain self control for so long before you start to falter? It’s probably because your brain got exhausted and didn’t get a break.
So, the answer is to take small breaks which allow us time to refill our performance fuel tank, so we can perform at 100% again. These only need to be short - around 10-15 minutes at a time, with maybe a longer one thrown into the day somewhere. When we do this, we can then get that focus back up to 100%.
Let’s be clear about this: if you spend three hours at your desk without a break, then chances are the last 1-2 hours isn’t nearly as productive as you think it is.
Want to know more about how to Recharge for Mental Health and Performance? Watch the Video
HOW OFTEN SHOULD I RECHARGE?
This is a great question. And if we are talking about self care, stress management and workplace mental health, then there is an optimum timing for recharge breaks. It will be individual as you would imagine, but the general framework is as follows:
Every 90 minutes
After 90 minutes of full intensity, we need a 6-15 minute break. For example, waling to fill your water bottle or get a coffee. Maybe some stretching at your desk. Just three ten-minute moments throughout the day, as a self care idea, helps boost performance and decrease stress and anxiety. And when you get home, you’ll have less workplace stress and have the time and energy to devote attention to the things that matter.
Once a day
Another 20-30 minute recharge every day would also be great if you can get it. This could be some digital solitude on the way home from work or listening to some music.
Once a week
Having a full one hour session of recovery each week is an amazing addition to the above. One hour of yoga, or a walk in the bush – anything that helps you disconnect.
WHAT DOES GREAT RECHARGE LOOK LIKE?
To recharge effectively, we need to have three main components:
Firstly, we need to slow down. Don’t rush from place to place and squeeze in some personal chores, just slow down.
Secondly, we need to disconnect physically and mentally. Remove yourself from the work environment and try not to think about whatever it is you’re working on.
Finally, we need to move. When we move we re-oxygenate the brain.
Here are some ideas:
10 RECHARGE STRATEGIES:
- Breathe - as little as 10 breaths helps us to slow down
- Stretch - at your desk, outside, in the lunchroom… wherever
- Stand in the sun - sunshine is one of our natural energy rechargers
- Go for a walk - movement is wonderful
- Read - a book, a newspaper article…. but definitely not work
- Music - preferably something slower and chilled, but whatever floats your boat
- Meditation - like breathing on steroids… clear your mind
- Chat to a friend- our brains love social interaction ….. but definitely not about work
- Lie down with your feet up the wall - no joke. You’ll look strange but it can lower stress chemicals
- Just sit still and notice what’s around you - sometimes called mindfulness
FOCUS ON RECHARGE WITH THE FOCUS PLANNER
The Focus Planner is the best productivity planner in Australia. In this planner diary, you’ll find specific prompts to recharge every day, keeping your mental health and wellbeing strategies front of mind. This is also a full focus planner – incorporating work life balance and self care ideas as you plan every day to be your best self.
In the Focus Planner we just focus on getting one good quality Recharge period in each day.
Q: I feel like I can work for hours at a time. Do I need to take Recharge breaks?
A: Yes. Even if you can sustain the effort, your quality of thinking starts to diminish as well as focussed attention and behavioural control. You can go for longer periods if you are doing 'Auto Pilot' work.
Q: I can't take time to leave my desk. I have too much to do!!
A: This is a false economy. Our advice is: take a break, then work for another period at high intensity...... you'll get more done.
Q: Getting out of work and back to the kids is enough Recharge for me. Is that ok?
A: That depends. Sometimes family can be stressful. If this is the case, then this isn't really a Recharge moment. You need to carve out another 20-30mins. Often when people do this on the way home from work, they feel better able to give their family time full attention.