We use cookies on this site to enhance your user experience.
For a complete overview of all cookies used, please see our privacy policy.

Take a Mental Break. No, Seriously, Right Now.

Home  /  The PRES&S  /  
Business Advice
Take a Mental Break. No, Seriously, Right Now.

hould connecting with nature be part of your regular workday? For Cora Kromer, owner of Opulen Artis, it is. Kromer, who creates artwork for screen printers and promo customers, often works from home and lives in the woods on a lake. “I head outside for 15 minutes to do breathing exercises and a short meditation every day,” she says, to destress and refresh her energy.

Taking regular breaks away from your station helps you relax and recharge, since you’re creating a brief mental and physical separation from your work tasks.

“There are two key motivations for taking mental health breaks from work: heightened productivity and reduced stress. Neglecting breaks can accelerate burnout among business owners and contribute to heightened irritability, ultimately impacting workplace morale in a negative way.”
Matthew Schubert, Nationally Certified Counselor and CEO at Gem State Wellness

If you’ve been feeling stressed, check out a secret to sustained print shop success: the power of purposeful mental breaks. Taking short breaks during your work day can revitalize your mind, improve your concentration and drive your shop’s profitability like never before.

How Neglecting Breaks Impacts Your Performance

Being “productive” for many business owners means spending more time working – or finding ways to maximize work time by waking up extra early, scheduling back-to-back meetings or working on weekends.

More than 59% of entrepreneurs and employees report feeling burned out and 65% of small business owners feel anxious and depressed, along with suffering from physical symptoms like headaches and stomach burn, especially since the pandemic. Not taking breaks also can lead to decreased productivity, impaired decision-making and strained relationships.

However, Harvard Business Review research shows that contrary to the widespread idea that “success equals working long hours,” pausing work throughout the day can actually improve your overall well-being, help you be more productive and even boost performance. Unfortunately, nearly 40% of people say they only “occasionally, rarely or never” take breaks during the workday, and nearly 25% say they feel judged or guilty if they take a midday break.

The Positives of Prioritizing Breaks

Prioritizing breaks not only renews your focus and creativity, but also promotes a healthier lifestyle and better work-life balance. In fact, stats show that 94% of employees say they’re happier when they can take a break and 78% of workers agree that taking a lunch break away from their desks improves their job performance.

Researchers have found that microbreaks help tired employees engage with their work better over the course of the day – increasing their morale and productivity in the workplace. Taking quick breaks every 90 minutes or so, and getting outside, can jumpstart your entire team’s creativity and drive.

Planning Out Your Mental Breaks

You've got plenty of options when it comes to taking breaks – whether it's stretching, strolling outside, chatting with friends, doing breathing exercises, enjoying a healthy snack, and more.

“Taking mental breaks at work is so important and how we define it depends, in part, on what kind of work you do. For example, if you have a very physically demanding job, a mental break might be finding a quiet spot and sitting in silent rest for 10 minutes. If you have a desk job, it might mean getting outside for a brief walk to refresh your mind and body.”
Lauren Henkin, founder and CEO of wellness app The Humane Space

Let’s break down some common break elements to help you know when and how to pause work:

1. Break length and timing:

Taking short micro-breaks from work throughout the day to snack, stretch or look out the window, keeps you from getting wiped out and boosts your performance. Try to schedule breaks at regular intervals during your work routine.

Taking shorter breaks, like grabbing a coffee or doing a five-minute power walk, are more effective in the morning to refresh your mind and mood, and longer lunches or early afternoon walks battle midday tiredness.

Effective mental breaks come in all different lengths. Even two minutes of mindful ‘looking’ or eating can be helpful. I look through a small window in my office for 60 seconds to reset.”
Lauren Henkin, founder and CEO of wellness app The Humane Space

Say No to Back-to-Back Meetings.

Don’t fall into the trap of scheduling meetings back-to-back. “It seems like the most efficient way to get as much done during a busy day, right?” Henkin says.

“Those extra 10 to 15 minutes for breaks add up, and so many of us mistakenly think those break times aren’t necessary. But committing ourselves to move as quickly as possible from one task to the next has been shown to decrease productivity and increase stress.”
Lauren Henkin, founder and CEO of wellness app The Humane Space

2. Break locations:

While you can recharge at your desk, studies show that getting away from your station or better yet, outdoors, revitalizes you more than staying in your seat.

“Whether you chat with a colleague or get coffee, you’re resetting your mind. Many of us do this instinctively, but some need to set reminders to step away from their keyboards. I always recommend breaking between tasks or when you’re switching platforms. This gives your mind time to reconfigure.”
Ronald Osborne, business coach at Ronald Osborne Business Consultants

3. Break activities:

While 97% of people say they scroll social media on work breaks, this can actually lead to emotional exhaustion and lower work engagement. Instead, taking a short walk, meditating or stretching are way more rejuvenating.

“Things you can do to take a mental break include looking outdoors, taking brief walks, listening to a soothing song, or reading about a personal passion topic. Even doodling has been shown to be relaxing,” Henkin says.

"The key is to get out of the current stressful moment and into some activity that relaxes you, and incorporate that activity into your day in micro-doses. Of course, even closing your eyes and thinking about nothing can work!”
Lauren Henkin, founder and CEO of wellness app The Humane Space

4. Scheduling daily breaks:

Whether you’re the shop owner or manager, allow yourself and your employees to take daily breaks. Some companies give their employees the freedom to take an hour-long break whenever they please, however they choose to spend that time.“Mental health breaks from work can vary in duration, spanning from mere seconds to week-long vacations,” Schubert says.

“Given that longer vacations might be challenging to arrange, my suggestion for business owners and managers is to prioritize shorter breaks, even as brief as a minute throughout your day. These concise breaks can establish learned behaviors that help manage the daily stresses of your work life.”
Matthew Schubert, Nationally Certified Counselor and CEO at Gem State Wellness

5. Scheduling time off:

It’s also important to schedule rest days or vacations to give yourself longer periods of time to rejuvenate and connect from work, when you need them the most.

“Vacations are optimal, but they’re hard to schedule for small business owners, ”says Dennis Consorte, founder of Brand Boba and author of Back After Burnout.

“So, consider taking a ‘workation.’ Leave day-to-day operations in the hands of people you trust and take a short trip. Spend a few hours each morning working on your business if you need to, and then take the rest of the day to enjoy good food and fun activities. Try to include some physical activities on your ‘workation’ to destress, too. By giving yourself a few hours of optional work time while away, you'll alleviate much of the anxiety that shop owners feel when they drop everything, while also giving yourself a break.”

Top Ideas for Your Breaks

Whether you're in the middle of a hectic workday or simply need a break from the daily grind, taking time for yourself can have a profound impact on your mental and emotional state.

Here are a few ways to unplug and recharge, from mindfulness practices to pursuing personal passions, helping you find the perfect way to refresh your mind and spirit.

Stepping away from work:

Taking a mental break means taking time to actually remove yourself from work for a while, both mentally and physically. “That means leaving your station and doing something completely unrelated to work,” says Lee Holden, Expert Qigong Master at Holden QiGong

“Try to take a mental break after two hours of work for 15 to 20 minutes at a time. This allows you to reset and recharge for the work ahead.” Some examples include taking a walk, doing a seven-minute workout, getting a healthy snack, journaling, reading a book or socializing with friends.”
Lee Holden, Expert Qigong Master at Holden QiGong

Grounding exercises:

No matter where you are, you can use this technique to find your focus.

“Center your attention by engaging your five senses and gently observe what you notice. This practice has the power to reorient you to the present moment and serve as a pause to interrupt any lingering ruminative thoughts about work.” - Schubert says

Personal passions:

“A good tool to incorporate into your life is curiosity, which has been scientifically proven to help with overall wellbeing, ability to connect with others, and stress reduction,” Henkin says. “So what are you curious about? It could be astronomy or poetry or geology. Rediscover personal passions and try to incorporate them into daily life, even for very short periods of time.”

Mindful activities:

While many people use meditation to achieve balance, there are just as many people who struggle with meditation or just don’t want to meditate.

“Other ways to incorporate mindful activity is to simply slow down and pay attention to the world around you. Look at a bird for a few minutes, see how many instruments you can hear in your favorite song, or take a five-minute walk just for the purpose of appreciating the world around us.”
Lauren Henkin, founder and CEO of wellness app The Humane Space

Get outside as often as possible and remember that these small moments add up to big rewards for both physical and mental well-being.

Breathing exercises:

Without moving, you can change your breathing by slowly inhaling through your nose (a “cleansing breath”) and exhaling through your mouth (exhale partially, not all the way), allowing you to let go of stress and clear your mind.

“When you have low stress, your energy and happiness levels naturally increase,” Holden says.

Start Small, Reap Big Rewards

Regular breaks during your workday caretake your mental health and well-being by reducing stress, banishing burnout and promoting a work-life balance. Whether you take a micro-break to doodle at your desk or head outside for a 20-minute walk, you’re relaxing and recharging, so you can return to your shop with better focus and jumpstarted productivity.  

“It’s essential to take mental breaks to keep your focus or more easily switch between tasks,” Osborne says. “Disengaging from tasks, whether a micro break or an hour lunch, actually improves your focus. If you’re not accustomed to taking breaks, start small. Implement short breaks which will, after a few weeks, become a habit.”

Oct 1, 2023