You know those days. The ones where everything on your computer is blinking at you, your inbox causes you to sigh and close it, the phone will not stop and it’s possible that funky smell may be coming from your person. On top of that, every little thing that crosses your path is causing irrational feelings of anger. On the rare occasions you do leave your desk, the people you live or work with shrink back or get out of your way.
Does this sound familiar?
You aren’t alone. It happens to all of us. It’s also a sign that you need a break.
Yes, I said it. This is your WordPress Mom talking and she’s being.. well, your mom. It really is for your own good.
Whether you are in support, a programmer or designer working for an agency, a freelancer with multiple clients, or really anyone at all earning a living from staring at the screen all day, we all have one thing in common:
We all sit at the screen far too long.
Here’s how to avoid it, how to see it coming and how to de-stress so you can do your job more effectively.
This is something that is easy to forget when working on your own. We may be used to taking a social media break, but we’re still sitting in front of a screen. Get up! Move around! Concentrate on your breathing – take a deep breath in and exhale slowly.
This will also help with burnout. We all have deadlines and we all feel the crunch, but did you know that working longer hours does not mean working better? Have a look at your upcoming schedule. Is it realistic? Can you rearrange some deadlines?
Sometimes this also means saying no to upcoming jobs or volunteer work.
For some of us, this is indeed a hard lesson to learn. I can almost hear the “But…” thoughts forming in your mind.
See it coming
While it will take some practise and a healthy dose of self-awareness, you can learn to see the signs approaching. Get into the habit of writing down your schedule and a task list, in whatever format works for you. If you periodically review the list, you can identify early where the potential crunch times will be. Schedule some downtime. Block this time for you so you can be better for everyone else. Developers like Curtis McHale and business owners like Brian Gardner are well known for taking time to be active, as well as leaving free time to be creative.
You may also want to look at the buddy system. This could be a co-worker or a friend in your field. Ideally, it’s someone you are close enough that you can accept being told, “Dude, chill. You need a break.”
I do have a small circle of friends that I often ask for sanity checks. I may ask their opinion on different circumstances that come up. Was I testy sounding in this reply? Did I fly off the handle in my reaction over here?
I even have friends who will shoo me off twitter or skype if needed.
Recently I have been trying to play catch up to feel like I’m getting ahead, but the only thing that was happening was I was getting crankier. I had been putting off my usual off days and not doing the things that made me feel happy and rested. In my case, this is playing with fabric, sewing, looking at quilt books and magazines, and going for energetic walks. Working longer didn’t mean that I was catching up with things – everything was just taking longer. And it was affecting my attitude.
So I took a break.
Within an hour, I was already starting to feel lighter and less stressed. I gave my brain a different problem to focus on. I’ve also noticed when talking to others who program all day that all our hobbies are highly tactile and definitely lean towards the artistic. Some of us like to sew or bake, others go fishing or biking.
I also have a regular planned bout of physical activity in the evenings. My husband Ron and I go for a half hour walk. This has a whole slew of benefits: we spend a few minutes together without distractions, we both get a break from the computer and we get in some physically healthy activity.
This switch is actually good for your brain too. Identify for yourself the kinds of things that you like to do in your down time – or, at least things thing you used to do. Feel free to share in the comments.
So take that break today. Your mom (and science!) say so.