Stop Being Productive: Take a Real Break

Eventually, if you keep working and ignoring your first signals of stress, you end up in the survival zone. When this happens your brain inevitably slows down, you become more negative and prone to frustration and irritability. It’s high time you take a break from what you are doing, or from any other stress-inducing activities. Do something that will improve your mood and slow you down; preferably something fun that absorbs your full attention.

Have a chat with a colleague or friend that is likely to make you smile, or watch a funny clip online. Go for a walk, listen to some music, or play a game of ping pong wit a collegue. It really doesn’t matter what, as long as it’s something you really enjoy.

Have a Laugh

Laughing lowers the levels of cortisol and adrenaline floating around in your system, lowering your stress levels instantly. At the same time it triggers the release of endorphins and serotonin, which boost your mood and recharge you emotionally. Additionally, laughing can boost your immune system, and – probably more important – it can distract you from what was stressing you out. It has the ability to influence your mindset in a way that makes you see your problems more as challenges, instead of threats. It allows you to connect with others in a positive way. All this can happen in seconds, just because you are laughing.

Play some Music

Listening to slow and quiet music can have a tremendously relaxing effect on both your body and mind. It directly affects your brain activity and a number of physiological functions. It can slow down your pulse and heart rate, lower your blood pressure, and lower the levels of stress hormones floating around in your system. And it can lower your muscle tension and may even boost your immunity.

All you need to do is to play the songs or tunes you like. If you don’t have your music with you, just close your eyes and imagine hearing your favorite song. Basically, when you listen to music your brain presses ‘record’ automatically, creating a mental image of that song, that can be replayed by imagining it, activating those very same pathways.

Go Outside

Going outside helps you to unplug. Leave your mobile phone behind, or if you insist on taking it with you, switch it to flight mode. See it as a mini ‘off-the-grid vacation’ for you and your brain. Less distractions from the endless list of tasks, messages, and emails, coming your way, and more time to reflect, let your mind wander.

Going outside is the ideal way to give your brain a break, and if you are dealing with a stressful situation, it can help you to literally take some distance. Whether it’s a problem at work or an argument with your partner, going outside simply helps to disconnect, reflect and relax.

Get a Massage: it Is Not Just a Pure Luxury

Most people rarely treat themselves to a massage, if ever. At the same time, professional athletes get regular massages, and a growing number of musicians and executives are getting them as well. They are increasingly recognizing the benefits.

Massages can boost parasympathetic activity, resulting in lower blood pressure, lower heart rate, increased heart rate variability and lower cortisol levels.

Furthermore, they can decrease fatigue, anxiety, anger and depression, and improve your mood, and increase the blood flow in your muscles. Altogether, massages can help you recover from practically any kind of activity. Next time, when you hesitate to book one, just do it and enjoy it! Not only because you deserve it, but also because it’s an investment in some high-quality downtime.

N.B.  Even a 15-minute chair massage can trigger a powerful relaxation response.