Let’s face it – we’re all busy. Whether you are a full-time student or work a full-time job, we all know that the work doesn’t end when you leave your job or when you leave the classroom. For students, it is certain that homework and studying will require effort outside of the classroom, but even for working adults, many of us have responsibilities at work that extend beyond the time we leave the office.
Regardless of your situation, most of us have plenty of responsibilities in addition to our work or school life. While some attend school and work a full-time job, many of us have a side-hustle, a family, and civic responsibilities, and these often make it very difficult just to get through the day. Personally, there have been times in which I’ve felt as if I couldn’t take on one more task, and at those times, I was usually given 2 or 3 extra tasks by the end of the day, if not more. In the beginning, this would often create a sense of momentary panic; however, I recognized that it was critical that I prioritize my day appropriately in order to complete my tasks on time, and panicking wouldn’t help me in that regard.
This is reality for most of us, as there is always something for us to do, whether it is planned for our to-do list in advance or is due to an event that occurred outside of our control. And since we recognize that being busy is just reality, we also need to take a moment to recognize the importance of our mental health. Now, I’m not a mental health expert, nor do I claim to be, but I can attest to the benefits of taking a moment in the day to do nothing other than pause, relax, and clear your mind.
Some people call this meditation, and for those of you who meditate in the traditional sense, I recognize the benefits of it and promote this behavior. For others, this may be relaxing to watch a quick YouTube video or TED talk (just don’t watch ten videos – that’s vacation time, not a break). And for me, it’s just taking a moment to think freely, relax to some smooth jazz, and stop thinking about everything that I have to do for a few minutes.
“But I have deadlines” you may say. Yes, you do, but if 5 minutes makes the difference between making and breaking a deadline, you probably need to prioritize your day differently. The 5 minute break is critical to your mental well-being, and in reality, you’ll return to your day refreshed and capable of taking on whatever tasks that are thrown at you. During your break, your mind has had time to relax, and the creative instincts of your subconscious mind will enable you to tackle your tasks differently than you might would have after a long period of concentration.
I can remember the first time that I realized the importance of a mental break. When I first began my career in the tech industry, I remember a day where it seemed that everything I touched would break and nothing that I worked on was any closer to completion than it was when I started (if you’re a developer, you know exactly what I’m talking about). By noon, I was mentally exhausted and didn’t even want to go to my after-lunch meeting. But it was in that meeting that I received this great advice from my co-worker – “take a few minutes to yourself, get everything off of your mind, and just calm down. Then, when you go back, you’ll be more inclined to fix your problems instead of panic over them.”And my co-worker was absolutely right. Sometimes, all you need is a few minutes to get everything off of your mind in order to be your best self. While it’s often difficult to recognize, our brains aren’t computer chips with a sole process to run. Instead, our brains are multifunctional organs that require the same care that our other organs do. We can’t constantly pound our liver, kidneys, and stomach with terrible contaminants, or our bodies won’t last. The same is true with our brain. While its cognitive functions are impressive, it also has other duties and must be treated with care. So, the next time that you’re feeling stressed out and exhausted, but still have a long to-do list, I encourage you to take your 5 minutes of relaxation and see the results for yourself.