Do you feel like a browser window with a hundred open tabs competing for your attention? Modern life can leave you overwhelmed, struggling under the weight of so many different responsibilities that you end up paralyzed. Perhaps the reason you’re frozen is that you need to take a brain break.
Humans weren’t designed to juggle mental and physical labor during every waking hour. While productivity is well and good, nature included checks and balances in her biological designs for a reason. Everyone needs — and deserves — time to reflect, make sense of various experiences and simply breathe. When you don’t honor this innate need to relax, problems develop.
However, modern society often pressures you into feeling guilty for being human. Tell that toxic, maladaptive mindset to step off. Here are four reasons everyone needs to take a brain break.
You’ll Improve Your Focus
You have a disagreement with someone you care about that leaves you tongue-tied with frustration. You finally think of the perfect retort — several hours later, when you’re doing something completely unrelated. Who hasn’t experienced wishing they could go back in time and deliver that zinger?
This phenomenon reveals an interesting truth about how humans work. We can only process so much input before our brains go into overload. Once that happens, you can stare at the same paragraph for hours and not comprehend a word.
Continuing to ponder seemingly impossible problems only increases your stress and anxiety, ironically making focusing harder. Taking a break can have the effect of letting the mud settle after tossing a rock in a pond. The murkiness clears.
Why? Your mind is a muscle, albeit unlike any other in your body. It can become fatigued, as chemicals like adenosine build up, clouding your concentration. Giving your brain the break it needs lets it clear the circuits. It’s a lot like rebooting a sluggish computer.
You’ll Ease Stress and Improve Your Health
Working too long and hard increases your stress levels. However, guess what? Poor physical health also dials up the pressure. You could end up in a vicious spiral, with worries about your symptoms worsening existing problems. Taking a brain break could be the reset you need to ward off severe health problems. Consider how you could benefit.
1. Lower Your Blood Pressure
Heart disease remains the number one killer of men and women worldwide, and hypertension is a significant contributor. Western diets high in salt, unhealthy fats and artificial additives strain your ticker. Stressful lifestyles do the rest.
Taking a brain break can lower your diastolic and systolic numbers. Researchers studied vacationers who engaged in various activities, from e-biking to golf. They all improved their heart rate and blood pressure readings, although those who participated in more vigorous workouts showed the biggest weight changes.
2. Get Regular Exercise
The number one reason people say they don’t work out is lack of time. Factoring regular brain breaks into your routine can help your body get the movement it needs to stay healthy as you age.
You might not need as much as you think. Although the WHO recently revised their exercise guidelines, roughly 30 minutes a day meets the minimum requirement — and you can break it down further into 10-minute segments.
3. Reduce Systemic Inflammation
Inflammation is a symptom and cause of many chronic diseases, and stress contributes. Stress raises your cortisol levels, but continued exposure causes your tissues to become less sensitive to its effects. As a result, your body becomes inflamed due to stress, leading to tissue breakdown and a lowered immune response.
Exercise, especially the moderate variety, helps to restore a healthy cortisol balance. Although your levels increase during exertion, they dissipate afterward, mimicking the evolutionary response of calming yourself after fleeing a threat.
4. Decrease Anxiety and Depression Symptoms
Anxiety and depression are the twin modern plagues, with already-high diagnostic rates soaring by an additional 25% during the pandemic. Fortunately, taking a brain break can ease symptoms of each.
How? Remember the stress hormone cortisol? An imbalance can affect your neurotransmitters, resulting in mental health symptoms. For example, too much glutamate is neurotoxic, killing the brain cells you need for problem-solving as your anxiety levels rise. Too little dopamine or serotonin may result in depressive symptoms.
You May Experience a Breakthrough
What is an idea? At its simplest, your thoughts break down into electrochemical processes inside your brain. Scientists know more about what influences your thoughts and behaviors today but have yet to identify the right combination of juices to make that creative spark.
However, consider the subjective evidence that taking a brain break can lead to breakthroughs:
You Deserve to Simply Be
Finally, consider this: You are a human being.
Read that sentence again. You are not a “human doing.” You are a human being, endowed by your creator with a divine right to enjoy all this world has to offer — not only the stressful parts.
Taking a brain break lets you revel in the richness of human existence. After all, what is this life for if not experiencing what it means to be human?
You Need — and Deserve — a Brain Break
Humans aren’t designed for nonstop rest. Mother nature included the need for relaxation for a reason.
Consider the above reasons you need and deserve a brain break. Then, book a holiday or plan your next mental health day with purpose.
WRITTEN BYAva Roman