This is something that took me over twenty years to learn.
In high school, and even in the beginning of college, I was always the person who would sit down and power through something until it was done (if it was something that could be done in one sitting, of course. I wasn’t one to knock out ten page papers in one night). I would camp out at my desk, put some music on, and get to work. The faster I could get my work done, the faster I would be able to enjoy my free time.
But during my second year of college, I began to feel burned out. I was working on school work an average of sixty hours per week, and I continued to try to do as much of my work in one sitting as possible with the least amount of breaks. It was a recipe for disaster.
I had learned then the value of taking a step away from my work, even it it was just as small as walking to the campus center to get a snack and a change of scenery. I was able to step away from my work, get some fresh air, and even chat with some of my friends if they had joined me for the break. My mind was able to take a break and focus on something other than school work. It was a relief.
After a couple of weeks, I had made these breaks a priority in order to keep me sane. Whether it was taking a walk on campus, going for a drive around the city at midnight, or walking around one of the few stores still open late at night, these breaks had become a routine. As a result, I found myself able to work through problems a lot easier and I felt more accomplished when I went to bed every night. I was also in a much better mood overall.
But now that I have finished school and have a 9-5 desk job, I fell into that same routine of sitting at my desk and knocking out task after task until the day was over. I would even eat my lunch at my desk in order to continue working. It was like I had become a robot. There were days where I did go out of the office to buy lunch or run an errand, but more often than not, I was at my desk. I was beginning to feel burned out again, and something needed to change.
At that same moment that I was beginning to feel burned out again, a walking club was announced at my office. They met once a week and walked almost two miles during the lunch break. I decided to join. The weather was getting warmer and having some fresh air and sunshine during the day couldn’t hurt.
Just like in college, the break during the day was well worth it. The people who were on the walk didn’t talk about work, but rather about what was happening in their lives or the plans they had for the following weekend. It allowed for me to recharge and come back to my desk feeling refreshed with a clear mind. It has helped me so much recently that I’ve been trying to get out every day during my lunch break if I can.
So, if you aren’t already, remind yourself to take breaks throughout the day, even if it’s something as small as getting up and taking a walk to the water cooler. Your mental health and wellness is more important than cranking out work like a robot.