Take Brief, Unscheduled Wellness Breaks
Updated: Mar 2, 2022
By Rima Zabian, PsyD
AWARE Early Childhood Deputy Director
“Whenever I have a stubborn position on something, I take a deep breath and swallow myself.”
“I Like To Move It Move It.” My daughter loves this song. “Ants in my pants, got ants in my pants.” She understands that dancing like you have “ants in your pants” is to cope better with stress, frustration and exhaustion. (Especially if she cannot have ice cream again.) A short wellness break is also a chance to reset. Let’s work backward to understand how and why.
Constant sitting at a desk increases your chances for heart disease, diabetes, depression, and obesity. If you have to make frequent decisions during your day, you will eventually reach the point where it is easier to snap. No. Your motivation may wither and that two-week old brownie on the counter may start to look pretty tasty. Even worse, mental fatigue may lead to bad decisions because you’re too tired to remember your organization’s core values. Here are five tips to follow the “party this belly started” and rock your well-being.
Why are suggestions for wellness breaks always about just one person? You work with other people. Try not to smile if everyone doesn’t break into dance for 10 seconds at the end of each hour. I’m not a dancer. At all. For those people like me, try organizing an Exercise Mob. Everyone does lunges for ten seconds. Imagine you are the UPS person and you walk into that office space! Any exercise that you can perform safely and in control will work. This tip will create opportunities for social contact - just don’t lunge into one another - and connection.
A Four-Second Workout
Can you find four seconds, every hour, for eight hours to move? Recent scientific studies have shown it will boost your metabolism, burn fat, and improve your mood. Here’s the trick. You have to go hard. I mean, Maximum Effort! Skip stairs, incline push-ups on your desk, squat to your chair and stand explosively, side leg lifts, arm circles — just pick one and move it move it. Be careful and stay in control. No one wants to tell HR that they hurt their back in 4 seconds. For more of a challenge, workout for one minute. If you can do more than 7 minutes at maximum effort, you should be the one who is writing this newsletter.
Simple Yoga Breathing
We also need to find time to chill at work. Lie down or sit comfortably or do a handstand and rest your hands on your thighs. Inhale and exhale naturally through your nose and then start to focus on the way the air feels at the tip of your nostrils. Start to slow down your breathing and make each exhalation twice as long as the inhalation. Kick it up your relaxation a notch and hum each time you exhale. Be sure to hum relatively quietly, though. You don’t want someone to walk by and think you are evaluating their job performance.
Ten cups of coffee before 10 a.m. Check. Need to stand and go to the bathroom. Check. Pause for a minute or so (post-bathroom trip!) and stand with your feet hip-width apart. Shift your weight to the right and left, front and back, circles in both directions. Go slowly and really feel the movement in your body. Perform the same actions with your hips. Perhaps this will even loosen you up before a Flash Mob.
Unless you have high blood pressure or a heart condition, you can also fold forward, a slight bend in your knees, until you feel a gentle stretch on the back of the thighs. Let your head hang. Take a deep breath, place your hands on your knees and rise up slowly.
If you aren’t sure if you’re doing these movements correctly, ask one of your colleagues. Trust me, someone in your office does yoga, and they have been waiting for this chance to show everyone. The password is: Urdhva Hastasana.
This is where the line between interpretive dance and increasing your joints’ range of motion become blurred. If your body is feeling tight, you’ve been sitting for a long time, or you are sleepy, dynamic stretching will get you moving in multiple directions and improve blood flow. Do not hold any of the exercises. Go slowly but keep moving. Here are three simple exercises I use daily.
Sit or stand with your arms at your sides. Roll your shoulders up, back and down. Point your palms forward and slightly bend your elbows as you perform each shoulder roll. Repeat in the other direction.
Stand up and reach to the ceiling with your right arm while shifting your weight to your left foot. Switch sides and reach to the ceiling with your left arm while shifting your weight to your right foot. Be self-compassionate if you struggle with coordination.
Stand up straight. Lift your right knee and pull your leg gently in toward your body. Repeat with your left knee. This movement is excellent for reducing lower back tension. If you struggle with balance, perform this exercise with your back against a wall.
Not sure about some of these exercises? Go see the yoga colleague again. She will be just as excited as the first time to show you.
Brief and unscheduled wellness breaks can really turn around a crummy day in a short period of time. Prioritize your own well-being and ground yourself. Reset. But remember, sometimes you just need to dance without a purpose!