Hey readers! Welcome back to Dasha’s Weekly Psych Fact. Hope everyone is doing well and that the semester is going well so far. Exams are coming up soon, so wishing everyone luck on those if yours haven’t started already. 

This week, I want to talk about the importance of taking breaks and relaxing. 

FACT: taking breaks can relieve stress and make you more productive. 

There are many different ways to take breaks and so many awesome benefits of taking some time off in your busy schedule. Psychology Today describes a break as “a brief cessation of work, physical exertion or activity. You decide to give it a rest with the intention of getting back to your task within a reasonable amount of time.” But when you do get that rest in, what part of your brain actually needs that break? 

For work that involves thinking, it’s the prefrontal cortex. When you are doing goal-oriented work that requires concentration, the prefrontal cortex keeps you focused on your goals. It is also responsible for logical thinking, executive functioning and using willpower to override impulses. That’s a lot of responsibility— no wonder it needs a break!

Now breaks can be good to relax your prefrontal cortex and aim to get back to work in a short period of time, but there are also lots of other benefits. So let’s look into some of those.

  1. Movement breaks are essential for your physical and emotional health. Constant sitting, whether at your desk, the TV or the lecture hall, puts you at higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, depression and obesity. Getting up from your chair to walk, stretch or whatever activity you prefer can reduce the negative health effects. Just a five-minute walk every hour can improve your health and well-being and make you overall feel better. 
  1. Breaks can prevent decision fatigue. Citing a famous study, author S.J. Scott notes that Israeli judges were more likely to grant parole to prisoners after their two daily breaks than after they had been working for a while. As decision fatigue set in, the rate of granting paroles gradually dropped to near 0 percent because judges resorted to the easiest and safest option –– just say no. Decision fatigue can lead to simplistic decision-making and procrastination which breaks can aid with.
  1. Breaks increase productivity and creativity. Working for long stretches of time without breaks leads to stress and exhaustion. Taking breaks refreshes the mind, replenishes your mental resources and helps you become more creative. “Aha moments” came more often to those who took breaks, according to research done by Stanford University. Other evidence also suggests that taking regular breaks raises workers’ level of engagement which, in turn, is highly correlated with productivity.

Looking at just those three benefits, we can see how taking breaks can be so beneficial and help your body and mind restore its state of homeostasis for further productivity. Of course, there are times when breaks are inappropriate, such as when you are in a good rhythm of work or just started doing a task, but overall breaks are good. So take breaks!

Looking for some examples of breaks? Take a walk connecting with nature and breathing in fresh air into your lungs, helping your body destress. Change your environment and briefly leave your workspace allowing your mind to switch gears for a bit. Get a snack and scroll through TikTok for a good laugh. Take a nap. Naps are awesome! Meditate for five minutes, this allows your mind and body to restore some peace and focus to get back to work. Just do what makes you happy!