What it takes to take a break
I spent a week away from the keyboard last month, and my neck and shoulders eased up a lot. But now I’m back to my bad old ways—I’m not taking enough breaks.
My bodyworker, Roy—who got me to exhale to such good effect last summer—recommends roll-away breaks every half hour or so. Roll chair back from computer; turn away from screen; take three breaths, focusing on the exhale (the inhale will take care of itself); and let your eyes be non-engaged for a few moments, either by closing them or gazing into the distance. Optional: stand up. He also recommends resting by lying back over a bolster (or rolled-up blanket) at least once a day.
I have to make these breaks super-simple and inviting, or I won’t take them. The elements and what I need to make them work:
• Every half hour. Every 40 minutes might work better. I’ll experiment. But in any case, I need regular reminders that don’t annoy me. A screen-interrupter would be annoying. So would an alarm. How about a meditation bell? One that I don’t have to download? I’ll try this one.
• Turn away from the screen. The optional standing up will help with this. I could walk over to the window, which has a decent view. That would be a good incentive.
• Take three breaths. Roy says these should be through the mouth, not the nose, because opening your mouth relaxes the jaw (and by extension, the neck). So it’s more like a sigh. OK, sighing I can get behind! I used to sigh a lot, just naturally, until an irritable boyfriend complained about it. This was, um, decades ago. I miss sighing! Incentive! Wait, but ex-BF memory is disincentive. Don’t want that baggage mucking up my nice break. Seriously, it’s decades old, can we let it go? Time to reclaim sighing! Will experiment. If sighing feels great, I’ll sigh. If not, just call it an exhale.
• Close eyes or gaze into the distance: Gazing (non-engagedly) at the view is definitely an incentive.
Funny how much prep I need for something as basic as taking breaks. That’s habits for you.
The resting over a bolster part could be a way to mark the transition between work time and done-with-work time. I work late, so that’s going to be tougher. I’ll start with the breaks.
To review The Plan for Happy Breaks:
Set online chime to go off every 30 to 40 minutes. When it chimes:
1. Stand up.
2. Walk over to window.
3. Sigh three times.
P.S. Got any non-annoying timers to recommend? Let me know in the comments!