Fortunately for me, I was born and raised in beautiful Hawaii so when I say that I am “taking a trip home” for holidays or family events, I get to go back to what I consider one of the most beautiful places in the world. Something happens whenever I take a trip home: I remember what it feels like to slow down and I leave feeling recharged, refreshed, and rejuvenated. Perhaps it is a combination of being on vacation from school or work and the laid-back culture there, but when I am home, it is easier to give myself permission to take a break, slow down, and just be. It comes so natural for me there but on my way back from my last trip, I found myself wondering how I could do that daily without having to travel 3,000 miles away from the life I am building in Utah.
It is so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life-work, school, taking care of kids, commuting in traffic, church activities, regular exercise, running errands, etc.- that taking a break might seem counterintuitive if you have things to do and deadlines to meet. However, research shows that taking breaks will actually increase productivity and creativity.
When I studied in graduate school, I implemented the Pomodoro Technique: working in undisrupted blocks, typically 25 minutes long followed by a 5-minute break. This means putting away any distractions, including text messaging, answering emails, or talking to family members close by. When I did this, I found that I studied more effectively in shorter work sessions rather than trying to plough through a longer block of time. This approach is effective with any task that I have to do, from cleaning the house to completing client notes.
If you are anything like me, you probably like to plan ahead with lengthy to-do lists. Sometimes it can be helpful in keeping me organized but often times, when tasks are left unchecked on my to-do list, I feel unaccomplished at the end of the day. On top of that, it is often difficult for me to actually enjoy a fun or relaxing activity (i.e., hanging out with friends, taking a nap, falling asleep at night, etc.) when I have an unfinished task in the back of my mind. To help with this, I make sure to schedule adequate time in my week to work on the tasks that are important. Then I schedule time for breaks, this includes time to sleep and socialize. There are numerous studies that prove the benefits of sleep but when we are busy, sleep is usually what we give up first. Resist that urge! Among the myriad of benefits, sleep will help with memory, productivity, clarity, and energy.
Take a deep breath
Research shows that people who practice daily meditation are more relaxed and productive throughout the day. When I first started to practice meditation, I had difficulty remembering to set aside time to do so regularly so I started by setting a reminder on my phone to slow down my breathing for a few minutes before every class that I had. Then I started to implement guided meditation from online recordings and also practiced yoga. If you are interested in attending a meditation or mindfulness group, we will be resuming our groups in the Fall so stay tuned or contact our office or website to sign up!
You do not have to travel 3,000 miles to feel recharged, rejuvenated, and refreshed. Learning to take breaks regularly throughout the day could give you the motivation and energy to fulfil your responsibilities.