I hardly ever took breaks at work. If I did, it was to go hang out with my friend while she smoked her twelfth cigarette of the day or to get a bagel with extra cream cheese from the deli downstairs.
It was hardly ever to do something that might benefit me — physically or mentally.
I didn’t have to go far to get a snack. My cube was about ten feet from the fridge. And I was far too busy to eat anywhere but at my desk while reviewing a proposal anyway.
I didn’t think twice about sitting in my chair for six hours straight. I was pretty sure I was invincible, like most people in their 20s believe.
And I certainly didn’t do anything to deal with my stress. Because it’s totally normal to snap at someone for calling you instead of emailing, right? Rrright.
Sometimes, it can be hard to step away from your desk, I get it. It can be even harder to do something healthy when we do. We’re in work mode. We’re there to work, work, work and do all the things and get paid, right?
Doesn’t it make sense that, the healthier you are and the better you feel, the better you’ll work and the more likely to work you actually are? Sounds logical to me.
So instead of only getting up from your desk to pee or get more coffee, why not create a healthy break? A little mid-day rejuvenation that makes you feel like you can conquer the rest of your to-do list with a smile on your face. Even if it’s just a shit-eating grin because you totally just did yoga in the empty conference room down the hall.
Here’s some ideas for you!
Call a loved one.
I don’t care if personal phone calls are discouraged at work. Are our lives supposed to completely stop because we stepped foot in the office? Phone a friend, my friend, even if it’s just for five minutes.
Deep breathing session.
I swear, you think deep breathing is laughable until you actually do it and you feel so much better.
Some of my favorites: alternate nostril breathing, 4x4, the 4-7-8…There’s a ton of options on Google, but don’t get sucked in for too long. Just pick one that sounds doable and give it a go.
Do some stairs.
Did you ever have to run the stairs? There just so happened to be two rather large staircases right outside my high school’s gym, and they featured prominently in volleyball practice way too many times.
You don’t have to run the stairs, but maybe just walk up and down a few flights? Maybe go wild and do some squats with one foot on a higher step? Maybe take them two at a time?
Do some stealth strength training.
If your idea of strength training is a bunch of meat heads in ripped tank tops and bandanas in a gym (or — as my boyfriend described someone on the beach recently — a dude in an invisible body cast), think again.
Body weight exercises totally count. You know, stuff like squats, lunges, calf raises, wall sits, chair dips, and leg lifts. Even crunches and planks.
You know I’m a fan of stashing some dumbbells at your desk and squeezing in some bicep curls, tricep curls, shoulder presses, tricep extensions, dumbbell rows, and deadlifts, too.
Get away from your desk.
Sort of a no-brainer, but why spend any more time there than you have to? Bonus: Most of these healthy break ideas require you to get away from your desk. Killing two proverbial birds with one stone, my friend!
Go for a walk.
There’s something healing about being in nature. Even if the only nature where you’re at is a parking lot. Breathing in some fresh air and stretching out your legs is akin to a power nap. You’ll feel energized, you’ll feel unstoppable, you’ll feel like walking and never coming back…
Go in the bathroom and cry (or laugh or smile).
Sometimes, the bathroom is your only respite.
Holding in your emotions all day long isn’t really good for you. Or for your partner or your dog or anyone or anything who gets in your way when you’ve been bottling things up. Do everyone a favor and spend a little time just processing some emotions.
Go to the bathroom.
Hahaha, like you’d forget to actually use the bathroom! I bet you’re laughing because you totally have before. Me too. Like, OMG, I can’t believe it’s 3:45, and I haven’t peed yet!
Have a healthy snack.
You can’t have a healthy break without a healthy snack, right? If you’re feeling a little hungry, why not take a snack break and actually enjoy what you’re eating?
My favorite right now? This smoothie.
Have a therapy session.
Did you know you can get counseling online? Some of it for free?
Have some tea.
Tea does just as good a job warming the heart and soul as soup. Make yourself a cuppa and sip your way to some calm.
Work-appropriate suggestions? Green tea, peppermint tea, reishi tea.
Listen to a few of your favorite songs.
You know what they say…music does a body good.
I challenge you to not feel some feel-good vibes when you put on your fave tunes. I think it’s practically impossible. Take it one step further and make a playlist you can put on repeat to help you make it through anything at work.
Listen to a guided meditation.
I totally did this at my desk all the time. When someone pissed me off, I switched on my meditation for calming down. You’d be surprised how much better you can feel after even just one minute.
Like Elsa said, “Let it go.”
Listen to a hypnotherapy session.
I love love love a good hypnotherapy session. And lest you think this is going to result in you clucking like a chicken while roosting on top of the podium at your next presentation, think again.
Hypnotherapy is very similar to meditation, just taking it one step further and really having an intention or a purpose.
I’m a huge fan of Grace Smith, and you can check out some of her free sessions here.
Refill your water bottle.
You’re drinking water throughout the day, yes? Lemme see you nod.
You’re getting pretty close to half your body weight in ounces, yes? Yesssss.
You’ve got a cute water bottle that makes you want to keep it front and center? Right on.
Now refill that bottle and keep on sipping, my friend!
Take a stretch break.
You know how good it feels to stand up after you’ve been sitting for a while?
Add a little stretch break in to your day and magnify that feeling by about 11 billion (results may vary).
A stretch break can help loosen up some of that tightness you’ve been working hard on all day long. Bonus? You don’t even have to get out of your chair if you really don’t want to.
Text a loved one.
And not just, “Hey, sorry the cat puked in your favorite dress shoes this morning.”
It doesn’t have to be racy. It doesn’t have to be overflowing with flowery language. But it does have to be something thoughtful that you’d like to see pop up on your phone.
Visit with a coworker (don’t get tattled on).
Got a work bestie? Work wife? Work husband? Saunter on over to their cubicle and have a little chat session.
Try not to complain about work too much — have an uplifting conversation. I hate small talk, but breaking up your day with a convo about anything but work can be fun.
Just make sure no one tells on you.
Write an email to a loved one.
Just like that text message you might have composed earlier, spend a few minutes writing a thoughtful email — the kind you’d like to receive.
Stuck? Forward a fun article you think your brother would enjoy or a pair of shoes you think your sister-in-law’s legs would look killer in.
And a good ol’ thank-you-for-being-a-friend note never hurt anyone.
Write down five things you’re grateful for.
Sometimes taking the time to notice things we’re grateful for can change our mood, our outlook, our perspective.
Sometimes it’s tough to come up with anything, especially when we’re at work and our day isn’t going so hot. But getting in to the habit of appreciating what you’ve got can be a little bit of a bright spot.
(Did you notice how there were some serious rhymes there? #grateful I’ll stop right there.)
Yoga it up.
Nothing beats some mid-day yoga. Whether it’s 5 or 20 minutes.
Regular yoga is awesome for lowering your cortisol levels (which my computer just so kindly autocorrected to Doritos…) and improving your stress response. So why not bust out a little flow when you’re feeling a little overwhelmed?
You’ll feel calmer, happier, more relaxed — and like a cool kid ‘cuz all the cool kids are doing yoga.
So those are some of my favorite healthy break ideas. How about you? Add your favorite way to add a healthy break in to your day in the comments below.