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Why Breaks are so Important (More so Now as We grapple With This New Normal) 

Are you one of those people who works and works and works and never takes a break? Either because there isn’t any time, or you just forget?  

I am one of those people I’ll admit. Even when I take breaks, I’m usually still working in some capacity or another. But the truth is that never taking breaks can lead to a serious breakdown. And right now, while stress is high and anxiety is higher, this is no time to be missing your breaks, whether for lunch, or vacation.  

With dental offices slowly opening all over the country, it is more imperative than ever that you take a break to let yourself and your staff breathe.  

A friend of mine was working at a veterinary clinic and they were getting slammed, even with the new guidelines in place, they couldn’t keep up to demand. Everyone working there was stressed, starting to hate their jobs and each other.  

Finally, the office manager came up with a solution. Everyone was working so hard that they needed just a minute to breathe, so she provided them with a two-hour window on Friday afternoon to stop, sit, relax, and play a game or listen to music together. Within this two-hour window, no appointments were scheduled, or calls answered. For these two hours, the clinic was closed.  

It worked. But why did it work? Why did everyone find it so much easier to work again, to work with each other again? In this article, I will explain why breaks are so important not only to your sanity, but to your health and well-being. 

Breaks provide a short window to breathe 

In the example above, the demand was so much that everyone in the clinic couldn’t even take a minute to breathe. My good friend even told me that while she was trying to eat lunch, she’d be called to help out. It was overwhelming, exhausting, and frustrating.  

Breaks give everyone a chance to sit, relax, and breathe. Really breathe. Have you ever been working and it’s almost as if you’re not breathing? That’s because your breaths are short and shallow, so you barely notice. It almost seems normal. Unfortunately, it isn’t and can cause tension and anxiety.  

Now, sitting or standing, stay perfectly still, breathe in deep through your nose and let it out through your mouth. These are the cleansing breaths we all use not only to relax our minds and bodies but to reduce pain and anxiety and even lower blood pressure,   

Short shallow breaths don’t do that. If you notice that you’re starting to get overwhelmed or stressed, stop, sit back, and take a moment to breathe deeply and let the calm of it wash over you 

Breaks allow you to eat properly 

Lunch is not considered the most important meal of the day, but in my opinion, it should be. It’s the meal that we are allotted the most time for within the workday, and most of the time, it’s one of the biggest. It is the meal that will keep us fully charged until the end of the day (whenever that is). 

If you’re like me, you eat more for lunch than for supper. 

Someone I know makes it a point to eat all his meals slow, taking time to not only savour the taste of the food but to allow that food to digest properly.   

Taking a proper break for lunch will allow you to not only slow down and savour the food but will help you digest that food, so that you don’t feel hungry ten minutes later, and you avoid stomach cramps that only come with eating too fast or eating while working.   

I have been working hard to slow down my eating and my chewing, because it isn’t healthy to eat too fast. And as someone who is now suffering with issues because of it, taking a proper break and slowing down will save you a lot of suffering down the road.  

Vacation allows your mind and body to reset 

With COVID-19 still haunting our everyday routine with added guidelines to follow and a new normal sinking in, the idea of getting back to work is a miracle. But this doesn’t mean that it’s nonstop with no vacation because, technically (and I hear this a lot), ‘I was already on vacation’.  

No. You weren’t.  

Vacation is giving your mind and body time to relax and recharge. I guarantee you that while you were working from home, or not working, you were not relaxing or recharging. 

Too many people I know feel that way, feel like they’ve taken a vacation by being off work, but vacation isn’t just a break away from work. It’s a break away from EVERYTHING. 

Taking a break, whether for one week or two, requires stepping away from work, from this virus, from everything that causes your body stress. It’s going to be hard. But you need a break when the time comes to take one.  

A vacation allows your body and your mind to reset, like shutting down your computer at the end of the night. You will come back refreshed and ready to go once again. Your patients deserve your undivided attention and you deserve a good vacation in order to provide them that.  

It is also important to note that vacation gives you a chance to do everything else I just discussed – taking time to breathe deeply and being able to savour and enjoy a meal without a deadline.  

Conclusion 

At this time, with everything we know turning on its head, this new normal is going to take a period of adjustment for everyone. Taking breaks regularly, taking time to breathe, to eat, to rest and recharge is taking advantage of a little bit of normal, which will make the adjustment period easier on all of you.  

Patients (including me) rely on you, and because they rely on you, you need to be at your best. The only way to be at your best is to make sure that you’re doing all you can to stay healthy, happy, and prepared to take on every hurdle that may come your way. 

Even as cases decline, our normal has been forever changed; the way we see our world and each other has forever changed as well. But one thing hasn’t – our unity. We stand as one to defeat this virus and no matter what happens, we are all in this together.  

For more information, check out the links provided below. 

Resources 

https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/relaxation-techniques-breath-control-helps-quell-errant-stress-response 

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320056#:~:text=Eating%20too%20quickly%20may%20add,your%20heart%20and%20your%20figure. 

https://www.allinahealth.org/healthysetgo/thrive/importance-of-taking-vacation#:~:text=Health%20benefits%20of%20taking%20a,more%20motivation%20to%20achieve%20goals.