Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Micro-Breaks For a Mad Year: Easy Ways To Feel Calmer In 10 Minutes Or Less

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Feel like you’re about to lose your sh-t at various points throughout the day and there’s no end in sight? Here are some free and easy suggestions of how to create some more space in your day.

Look, I would absolutely love to be able to send each and every one of you to a tropical island resort for a month-long break but as we thunder through yet another difficult month, it’s becoming increasingly clear that time off is as elusive as a mask-free outing.

So what’s the answer in the meantime?

MICRO BREAKS. It’s a term that sounds very Silicon Valley-esque – and therefore I kind of hate it – but I like to think of it as giving my brain time to catch up with my day. A micro break is defined as a “short, voluntary, and impromptu respites in the work day”, and some of the examples are chatting to a colleague, having a snack, making a tea or doing a couple of stretches. This is the kind of tiny break that immediately goes out the window when you’re working from home/in isolation/stuck at home with kids and you lose control of your own timeline. Creating a tiny window at some point in your day can give you a precious gasp of mental space in an otherwise busy day. A micro break might be the answer when you’re considering an out-of-office that simply reads: “Leave me alone.”

Treat Yourself Like A Plant

This is extremely good advice that comes from Capsule’s own Alice O’Connell: when you are going through a stressful time, take yourself back to basics and treat yourself like a plant, by making sure you are getting enough fresh air, sunshine and water. In this tricky times, at least planning something outside is a reasonably fail-safe thing to look forward to. But if you’ve just got 10 minutes? Just stand outside, turn your face to the sun and enjoy the outside air. It will make you feel better.

Have A Dance Break

This is the kind of mad-cap activity I got away with all the time when I worked from home solo but now that I am stuck in semi-lockdown in a bubble of three, I simply tell my flatmates, “If you’ll excuse me, I have to go and dance this out.” Moving around to some poppy, upbeat music for 10 minutes is enough to make you sweat and make you smile, and make you feel like a silly idiot. All of these things are a good idea at a time like this.

Have A Silence Break

On the opposite spectrum of that, if you are in 24/7 zooms or you’re in a bubble where you are NEVER ALONE, NEVER UNINTERRUPTED (wow, let my capitals speak for how much this is my life right now), then you might want to put on your noise-cancelling headphones and just have no noise, whatsoever, for 10 minutes. If you want music, make it classical or new agey – no lyrics. We are so plugged in at the moment that we rarely have an opportunity to have just our own voices in our heads. Create your own opportunity.

Meditate, Badly

A step above from a silence break, meditation is when you try and focus your mind by emptying your mind. This is considerably easier said than done, because the minute you try and think about nothing, you end up thinking about everything. That’s fine – 10 minutes of bad meditation is still better for you than zero minutes of quiet thinking time. You will still feel better – it’s like a magic trick. There are good guided meditations here and here, but you can also find good apps like Calm and Headspace.

Phone a friend

Missing your colleague and your tea breaks? Do the whole thing remotely instead – make a tea, call your friend and chat for 10 minutes. Even if you spend the entire time complaining about Covid and the weather, well, that’s fine. Keeping our sense of community alive is key in hard times.

Read a book

“I can’t read a book in the middle of the day, I have a job you know!” Sure, I get it – but how many of us pick up our phones in the middle of the day for a quick social media check and then get trapped in a mindless Instagram scroll where we a) remember approximately zero of how we’ve spend the last 10 minutes and b) feel more wired and panicked than we did before. Picking up a book that’s easy to read a couple of pages from is a great way to focus your brain, calm your body and keep you away from a screen for 10 minutes. Might we suggest these calming reads for a bit of time out.

Play with a pet

Thoughts and prayers to my landlord’s cat Peaches, who is putting up with me disturbing one of her 27 daily naps when things get desperate and I need a cat cuddle. If you are lucky enough to have your own pet, sit with them for 10 minutes/as long as they will let you crowd their space and just pat them. It’s very calming and soothing. By god, we all need to be soothed.

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