08 May Are You Addicted To Being Over Busy?
You can do a 1000 exercises to increase focus, but it will not give you higher levels of productivity if you are constantly on the move!
Everybody wants to thrive at work. A lot of times we are faced with urgent deadlines or creative brainstorming that can go on for hours! We override feelings of drowsiness, hunger, feeling tired or fidgety and a lack of focus. In reality, these are clear warnings or signs from your body saying that you need to take a break, enjoy that break and then re-focus.
The science behind why we need to break:
Our body has a wake-sleep cycle called the circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is an internal 24-hour “clock” that plays a critical role in when we fall asleep and when we wake up. This is how our bodies get the signal to wake up when there is light and go to bed when it is dark. Similarly, signals are also sent through the ultradian rhythm which is an hourly rhythm.
These signals inform our bodies of when it’s going to peak out. According to Nathaniel Kleitman, a renowned psychologist and sleep researcher- the human biological cycle (which includes our mental productivity and creativity) can help us stay active and focused for approximately 90 minutes (80–120 minutes). So he advises us to take energy breaks, after every 90 minutes to renew our attention span, focus and energy!
Why is this important?
When we are constantly developing ninja-like skills to enhance the brain’s thinking speed, it’s creativity and pushing it to fight off distractions- we are actually causing it to shrink in size! Brain atrophy is a big deal.
If left unattended, the cortisol levels that come from pushing our minds to the limit will kill, shrink and even stop the generation of new neurons in the hippocampus in the brain.
Maybe it’s time you decided what’s more important- a highly functioning brain that is looking at imminent shrinkage or one that still remembers the names of your grandchildren?
The key to productivity and energy in life lies in paying attention to your body at its peak levels of energy, attention and focus while simultaneously acknowledging that you need a mental break when needed. It doesn’t mean taking a break to think about what you are going to do after the break- it means to think about nothing. If you are sipping on a cup of tea- savor it and savor being in that moment having a tea break. Doing nothing is more valuable to your mind that thinking of what you are going to do next, while on break.
Other tips on how to re-focus:
Take time to understand your body: Listen to signs or signals that your body sends you. Spend a whole day understanding these signals and give yourself a break whenever needed to do absolutely nothing. See how that affected your mood, energy and focus the next day.
Include the 3 R’s- Rest, Renewal and Recovery into your day: Don’t schedule your day to be overly busy. The best way to get the most out of your day is to pace yourself and create some breaks between duration of intense work. In certain countries meal time goes on for an hour- this results in better digestion, social engagement, stress free periods and mental peace which can even result in weight loss. Savoring our breaks can be so beneficial to the body and makes us more mindful, grateful and in the moment.
Stop judging yourself: We have all been trained to believe that hard work comes at a cost. It doesn’t have to. Taking renewal breaks is essential in the field of sports. It’s also what we do to our laptops and phones when it overheats. Become aware of attaching negativity to doing nothing. Become aware of judging yourself as a bad worker during these times. Value the important of sustainability over pushing yourself to the brink of chaos. Let shutting down and stopping your chattering mind become a part of your life, not an experimentation. Make it work for the rhythm of your amazing body!
Nehita is a mindfulness expert who writes extensively on lifestyle management, wellness and ways to lead a healthier and a happier life. She is a part of Aware’s expert team on meditation. She is also an avid artist who spends most her time dribbling amazing stories through art.