In today’s episode I encourage you to take a break. Because taking a break to destress and recharge is really important. We’re gonna talk about how to do that in your engineering work day.
We have this mindset that we need to be busy all the time. Busy is good. Idle is bad. We need to be working hard all the time. Push through even when you’re exhausted or out of ideas. We think that low productivity is a result of not working hard enough.
This is not a healthy mindset.
I can tell you that my attitude at work was very much like this. I pushed myself a lot. I thought that I could be most efficient and effective if I used every minute to focus intently on my work. I rarely took breaks.
I judged people who stood around the coffee pot and chatted. They were time wasters. But I, probably like you, was intent on showing competence any way I could. Including by showing everyone how hard I worked.
I’ve come along way myself. But it’s a work in progress. I still hear myself saying things like, I gotta get this done. I should be farther along. I need more time…
We need to change this mindset.
The reality is that rest is important. Resting your brain has more benefits than pushing it when it’s tired. Taking time out to destress and recharge will enable you to be more effective throughout your work day.
Recharge Your Energy for Better Work Outcomes
Resting and recharging enables your brain to function better. It results in better work outcomes. And a daily recharge habit improves overall wellness.
Here, I’m providing some guidance on simple ways to recharge during the day. You can gather the ideas that are helpful and put together your own routine.
Research shows that our brains can stay focused for about 90 minutes and then they need to recuperate for about 20 minutes before they can focus again. This is called an ultradian rhythm. And it’s a good overall gauge for taking breaks during the day.
But everyone is different and focus depends on many things. You might also consider how intense your work is, how well you slept last night, and if your work involves sitting at a computer and constantly staring at a monitor.
Your brain may be able to focus for 90 minutes at a time, but your eyes might need a break after 30. If you’ve been in the same position too long or your thinking starts to get cloudy, pay attention to that.
You might feel other signs of fatigue, stress and need. Like brain fog, distraction, a lack of ideas, low mood or attitude, or restlessness. Plan breaks accordingly.
There’s a range of ways you can take a break, depending on the duration. For example, you can
- simply stop, close your eyes, and take a few deep breaths,
- move away from your workspace and do some stretches,
- take a walk and get a drink of water,
- go to a window and look out at nature,
- walk inside or outside for 10 minutes, or
- rest for a full 20 minutes.
A rest is anything that allows you to recharge. For some people it’s meditating, listening to music, exercising or doing yoga. For others it’s doing something with your hands (like doodling or knitting), having a conversation with a friend, or taking a nap. Whatever works for you.
Remedies for Stressful Work Day Situations
Destressing activities are somewhat harder to plan because stress is not always predictable. As you become familiar with how stress affects you at work, you can be more prepared to deal with it when it occurs and reduce it overall.
You’ve probably heard people talk about good and bad stress. Bad stress being the one you want to avoid. And good stress the “acceptable” one that helps move your career forward.
But I’ve learned to be wary about how stealthy stress can be. Bad stress can pose as good stress. And over time good stress is bad because it accumulates and has physical effects on wellness.
It’s good to have some destressing remedies at the ready for any stressful situation that might come up. Here are some of my favorites:
- For a big presentation or meeting, or when you have too many deadlines at once, a good remedy is to OPEN UP SOME SPACE: Take some things off your calendar or reschedule them so you have more space for preparing and relaxing.
- For higher risk activities or when you have a new project with lots to learn and feelings of overwhelm, a good remedy is to TAKE SMALL STEPS: Identify next steps. Determine your first next step. And just do that.
- When you’re stuck on a technical problem or a difficult decision, a good remedy is to LET THINGS COME TO YOU: There’s a point after you’ve done all you can where you pause, observe and wait. What you need will come to you.
- For tough situations with your team or when you’re feeling the stress of relying on others, a good remedy is to LET GO AND TRUST: Relinquish control, listen and allow others to shine.
- For a stressful family situation or when life is out of balance, a good remedy is to REGROUND YOURSELF: Focus on the present. This will remind you what’s most important and lead you in the right direction.
- For uncomfortable disagreements or when dealing with difficult people, a good remedy is to TRUST IN YOU: Remember your values. Be authentic and curious. And trust in your ability to work it through.
- For project setbacks and unexpected problems or when you feel like you’re not making progress, a good remedy is to ENVISION POSITIVE OUTCOMES: Visualize what your ideal outcome would be and align your energy with that. This sets a proper trajectory and encourages action along it.
These are all ways to help you deal with various situations while keeping your stress level low. In general, though, easy and reliable approaches to calm any stressful situation are deep breathing, walking, and viewing nature.
And you can always go back to your other favorite resting and recharging approaches that we talked about earlier.
What are your remedies for destressing and recharging? Do you need help setting up good habits to enhance your work day?
This is one of many things we can work on through my Signature Program, a comprehensive program tailored to help you become the recognized expert and savvy leader you want to be. Fill out an application here and we can schedule a discovery call.
I hope you can take some ideas from what we talked about today and create a daily destress and recharge habit. It will balance your energy, enhance ideation and improve engineering outcomes for a more fulfilling work day.
Next time on Her Engineering Career Podcast I’ll share some insights on talking to people about your work and impact. Join me next time for Episode 37.