For most of us, we are “on the go” from the moment we get up to when we put our head on the pillow at night. We run our body’s battery flat out and expect a lot from it. What happens is that without taking sufficient rest, our body and brain can get fatigued. It is no wonder that we are losing our verve energy, the powerful capacity to go out into the world, and make things happen. Maybe we need a different strategy to keep up the pace.
Day time rest or “pauses” are a simpler way to sustain your physical energy. Taking brief and regular micro breaks through your day will enable you to sustain your physical energy and your mental concentration. Think of this approach as building a rhythmical flow throughout you day. You are not a machine. You were designed to pulse and to move from intensity to recovery. Ideally you build in recovery through your day and week. If you have been under high periods of intensity and stress in your life, create a period to recover.
From his research on human performance, Australian psychologist, Dr. Adam Fraser has found that by taking time to rest, unwind and access moments of stillness builds recovery for your body and brain. By taking a micro rest, you are able to shift your brain and body chemistry to the relaxation response. In doing this, you will feel calmer and clearer and ready to go again. In his book, The Third Space: Using life’s little transitions to find balance and happiness, he explains that by using the moment of transition between the first and second activity you are better able to mentally show up for whatever comes next.
Studies by Nathaniel Kleitman and William Dement found that the human body moves in ninety-minute cycles both during sleep and awake. The awake cycle is called the ultradian rhythm. During these cycles, you move from higher to lower alertness.
The Quality of Life @ Work Study found that people who take a brief break every ninety minutes reported 28% higher level of focus than those who take just one break or no breaks at all. They also reported a 40% greater capacity to think creatively and 30% higher level of wellbeing. This study shows that it pays to pause and smell the roses, take some time to slow down or stop for a few minutes, and rest. To find out more, see the Energy Project white paper (www.theenergyproject.com)
How can you delight and enjoy the benefits of “fragrant pauses”…
There are several differing ways to build “pause” and “pulse” into your daily rhythm. When you are busy, schedule regular breaks. Do this by working intensely for twenty minutes, then break for five minutes. If you need to remind yourself, set a timer, or alarm on your phone. If you want to stay focused on the activity for a longer duration, go for ninety minutes, then rest for twenty minutes. This is useful if you are using a lot of brain power, or physical exertion.
There is also the notion of “micro recovery” which you can play with between activities. At work, these moments of rest may be as simple as getting up from your desk and going for a brief walk to get a cuppa or have a chat with some. When walking between meetings rather than thinking about what was discussed or even your next meeting agenda, defocus by noticing your walking or by counting your steps. Alternatively, you may choose to sit quietly for a few minutes, just shutting your eyes and doing some deep breathing. If you are near a park or gardens, going outside at lunchtime to be in the sunshine as it is a great energy lifter. Better still, find some grass, take off your shoes and put your feet on the earth, or lie down on the grass as this will give your body even more of recharge.
When demand in our lives intensifies, we tend to hunker down and push harder. The trouble is that, without any downtime to refresh and recharge, we’re less efficient, make more mistakes, and get less engaged with what we’re doing.
Tony Schwartz, CEO of the Energy Project