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Not Enough Hours In the Day? Balancing Work by Optimizing Breaks and Vacations


Avoiding the Multitasking Mind Trap

Worklife. Homelife. Community life. Sometimes, life’s responsibilities can feel overwhelming, indeed. The break you may be yearning for is a necessity. The human mind, body, and spirit simply were not made to withstand such incessant stimulation, and without consistent and adequate rest, your overburdened central nervous system is going to revolt sooner or later. Eventually, prolonged stress can significantly increase your risk of physical and mental illness, resulting not only in a lower quality of life but also a decline in life expectancy (1- 4). 


It’s not only the impact on your physical and emotional well-being that matters. Whether you’re striving to climb the ladder of success at work, at home, or in your community (or, more likely than not, when you’re aspiring to be the best professional, parent, or person all at once), pushing yourself to the limit and beyond isn’t the answer. In fact, it’s counterproductive. The evidence is in: when you work too much for too long, you’re going to burn out. At that point, both your motivation and your productivity will plummet.


There is a solution, though, one that can feel rather difficult at first but pays off once you get the hang of it. The answer is frequent periods of rest. Research increasingly shows that even a short break can improve your mood, enhance your health, and turbocharge your productivity and cognitive performance (9). Consistency and frequency, however, are key.



Working Your Last Nerve


The benefits of taking frequent breaks (once every 1 to 1.5 hours) for your health, productivity, and performance might seem counterintuitive. After all, when you’re in “the zone” at work, why would you want to interrupt that? What good can it possibly do to stop the flow when the neurons are firing and you’re speeding through your to-do list?


Well, quite a lot, actually. It all comes down to the human nervous system. The fact is that sensing, moving, feeling, and thinking in the world requires a lot of energy and effort. Your nervous system is working far harder behind the scenes than you probably ever could have imagined. 


It’s not just about the work. There is immense demand on your cerebral cortex when you’re processing information, performing a task, or learning a new skill. Even when you’re not consciously aware of it, your brain is navigating a nearly infinite amount of sensory stimuli, parsing an ocean of data from the external environment by the nanosecond, and making sense of the world around you, not only to keep you alert and oriented but also to keep you safe.


This process of making the physical, outside world intelligible and navigable calls upon the entire brain, from the deepest and most primitive structures to the more complex systems, to work in concert to transform sensory data into meaningful information. Waves of light and sound become the world we recognize only through a breathtakingly sophisticated (and arduous) neurobiological process that is, without adequate rest, as exhausting as it is elegant. 


Consider, for example, the vast machinations that go into auditory processing. Even when you are not consciously, actively listening, your brain is ceaselessly receiving, absorbing, filtering, and processing sound waves to quiet the din while still keeping you safe and functional. When you add to this the physical, neurological, and cognitive demands of uninterrupted work, particularly when that work involves multitasking (never a good idea), you have a perfect storm that, almost inevitably, will lead to overwhelm, exhaustion, and burnout.



The Blessing of a Break: Why Quantity Matters


As we’ve seen, it takes a lot of energy and effort to navigate this world of ours. This is why making time for rest and relaxation is so very important. As it turns out, a bit of peace and quiet does wonders not only for shutting out the cacophony of the outside world, enabling you to escape the clamor of your physical environment, but it can also help you quiet your mind


But, as it turns out, it’s not enough to simply allow yourself a vacation or day off every now and again. If your rest periods are few and far between, studies show that you’re unlikely to enjoy much benefit. That’s because long stretches of uninterrupted work increase the likelihood that, when you do finally take a rest, you’re going to already be worn out, stressed out, and, possibly, burnt out. That’s a physical, emotional, and cognitive state that is difficult to overcome, but it’s a state that can be avoided through the use of short, frequent rest periods, “microbreaks,” throughout the work day (5-7). This ensures that you are giving your mind and body, not to mention your nervous system, the respite needed to regroup, recenter, and recharge.


With this in mind, it’s perhaps not surprising that micro-vacations scattered throughout the work year can be just as beneficial as micro-breaks distributed throughout the work day. The evidence increasingly suggests that a single, extended vacation can, in fact, exacerbate stress rather than alleviate it. On the other hand, much like daily micro-breaks, short, frequent mini-vacations (9) can stop the stress cascade before it truly begins, allowing you to clear your mind, rest your body, and rejuvenate your spirit. 



Making It Count


To be sure, frequency and consistency are critical when it comes to incorporating rest periods in your work life and beyond. But how and where you find your rest matters as well. If, for instance, you’re carrying your cellphone or tablet into your time of rest, you’re unlikely to glean much benefit.


This is why, whether you’re stepping out of the office for a micro-break in the middle of the morning, or heading out of town for a mini-vacation, taking a break from the tech as well is key. So consider silencing your phone for all but emergency calls and leave the tablet and laptop behind. Only then can you hope to evade the constant stimulation that is stressing you out and overwhelming your nervous system so you can be fully present and able to absorb and lean into the silence and peace around you.


Above all, seek out spaces that truly lend themselves to stillness, quiet, and rest. Any natural space, such as the forest, mountains, beach, parks, or greenspaces, is, of course, ideal for finding the serenity your body and spirit need. Even something as simple as eating lunch outside near grass and trees or spending the weekend at a local campground can be incredibly rejuvenating.


When you can’t venture out to enjoy the healing hush of nature, however, you still have options. Now more than ever, our built environments are being designed with the soundscape in mind. From hotels to art galleries to restaurants, public spaces are being created to minimize noise and maximize comfort. 


Likewise, quiet rooms and spaces can increasingly be found in schools, hospitals, and even workplaces, offering a ready retreat for those who need a place to escape the stressors of the day, a place to find a reprieve from the external stimuli that can all too easily trigger the nervous system and activate that fretful and troublesome inner voice. 


The important thing, though, is to search out these spaces: find the quiet rooms in or near your workplace and identify the greenspaces, secluded parks, and cozy campgrounds near your home and office. Formulate your plan for your daily micro-breaks and your frequent mini-vacations and stick to it. 


You might, for example, set your alarm to alert you to take your micro-break at certain times throughout the day. Likewise, you might mark your calendar for a full day off every week and a mini-vacation every six weeks or so throughout the year. The key is to be committed and accountable. Your mind, body, and spirit will thank you - and your employer, colleagues, and clients will too!



How FSorb Can Help


At FSorb, we are proud to lead the industry in acoustic design innovation. Whether you are an architect, a designer, a business leader, or a homeowner seeking to create the ideal sound environment for rest and relaxation, FSorb has a full suite of customizable, eco-friendly acoustic solutions to meet and exceed your highest expectations. Contact your local FSorb representative today to explore our pioneering product lines and discover how FSorb can transform your acoustic design ideas into a reality.   


 

FSorb

At FSorb, we are motivated by improving human health and do so by creating eco-friendly acoustic products. Our mission is to help designers build beautiful spaces that reduce excess ambient noise while calming the human nervous system. With over 25 years in the acoustic business we stand behind FSorb as a durable, environmentally friendly, and low-cost product. If you want an acoustic solution that is safe to human health at an affordable price, then we are your resource.


info@fsorb.com

(844) 313-7672


 

Sources:

  1. Soto-Rubio A, Giménez-Espert MDC, Prado-Gascó V. Effect of Emotional Intelligence and Psychosocial Risks on Burnout, Job Satisfaction, and Nurses' Health during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Oct 30;17(21):7998. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17217998. PMID: 33143172; PMCID: PMC7663663.

  2. Lecca LI, Portoghese I, Mucci N, Galletta M, Meloni F, Pilia I, Marcias G, Fabbri D, Fostinelli J, Lucchini RG, Cocco P, Campagna M. Association between Work-Related Stress and QT Prolongation in Male Workers. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019 Nov 28;16(23):4781. doi: 10.3390/ijerph16234781. PMID: 31795277; PMCID: PMC6926840.

  3. Jung G, Oh J. Factors Affecting Health-Related Quality of Life among Healthcare Workers during COVID-19: A Cross-Sectional Study. Medicina (Kaunas). 2022 Dec 24;59(1):38. doi: 10.3390/medicina59010038. PMID: 36676662; PMCID: PMC9866756.

  4. Chauhan VS, Bansal M, Sharma V, Gupta R. Prevalence and Risk Factors of Hypertension among Police Personnel of District Gwalior- A Cross Sectional Study. Indian J Community Med. 2022 Jul-Sep;47(3):379-385. doi: 10.4103/ijcm.ijcm_1154_21. Epub 2022 Oct 10. PMID: 36438512; PMCID: PMC9693942.

  5. Miron C, Colosi HA. Work stress, health behaviours and coping strategies of dentists from Cluj-Napoca, Romania. Int Dent J. 2018 Jun;68(3):152-161. English. doi: 10.1111/idj.12361. Epub 2018 Jan 7. PMID: 29315538; PMCID: PMC9378919.

  6. Schulz AS, Bloom J, Kinnunen U. Workaholism and daily energy management at work: associations with self-reported health and emotional exhaustion. Ind Health. 2017 Jun 8;55(3):252-264. doi: 10.2486/indhealth.2016-0150. Epub 2017 Jan 25. PMID: 28123137; PMCID: PMC5462641.

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  9. Packer, J. (2021). Taking a break: Exploring the restorative benefits of short breaks and vacations.

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