On Your Mind

On Your Mind: The importance of taking a break

2013-12-18T10:59:00Z On Your Mind: The importance of taking a breakJennifer Pallay nwitimes.com
December 18, 2013 10:59 am  • 

A 10-second hug was all it took for a high school teacher to change the routine at work. David Russell , a retired Munster High School English teacher, says even if you may feel there’s no time for a break, it can be anything that helps you feel better.

“A lot of people get in a routine, get stuck in that routine and feel like no one cares about anything, them or anyone else,” he says.

When a former student suggested he try a hugging session in class, Russell did. Each day his creative writing students came in and gave each other hugs. They felt like they mattered and enjoyed coming to class every day, he says. “It was a break in their day from what the ordinary was.”

Inspired by that success, Russell decided to devote a week to hugging his co-workers during breaks. Each day he would hug two different people.

“It was pretty amazing to see people’s reactions. It was a break but made me feel better every time I did it and made someone else feel better. For the 10 seconds, it caused so many smiles. It was well worth the time and effort and I enjoyed doing it more often.”

Experts and research agree that taking breaks is important and that even a few minutes away from your workload can help. It recharges you and actually increases productivity.

Some local workplaces have new ways to encourage employees to take that much needed break.

Jean Lubeckis, an Employee Assistance Program therapist with Franciscan Alliance, has been a therapist for 30 years.

As a mental health counselor, she deals with employees’ personal, family and work related issues.

“The top thing we see is stress related issues,” Lubeckis says. “People are anxious and stressed these days juggling families, work and the demands of life.”

One area she works on with the staff is the importance of taking a break. She works with nursing leadership in Michigan City to encourage nurses to take a lunch and get out of the office.

Taking a break may need to be a thoughtful process and purposeful breaks are especially important, she says. Eating lunch at your desk doesn’t count. If people plan a break, they are more likely to do it, Lubeckis says.

“A lot of it is just habits people have to create,” Lubeckis says. There are many reasons people may not leave their desk, among them workplace norms and the social issues involving eating lunch with others or sitting alone.

Lubeckis is working to change some of those issues to help employees.

“Just 10 minutes of quiet meditation can significantly reduce stress,” she says.

Some companies encourage breaks by giving employees access to mini fitness classes, massages or other stress reducers.

Debi Pillarella, the fitness manager at Fitness Pointe, develops all its fitness programs as well as outreach efforts, including worksite programs for employees.

Pillarella says the most common excuses for not taking a break at work include no time, not wanting to get sweaty, not liking to exercise and having a sporadic work day.

She says to be effective, “you have to meet the employee where they are, make the break convenient, free and easy to do.”

Fitness Pointe offers a program called Fitness at Work, where employees come to an area at their work during their break and spend 15 minutes engaging in mini-classes such as chair Zumba, chair yoga and sit and stretch.

At work massages are also offered by Fitness Pointe.

Toni Lozano, the SpaPointe supervisor at Fitness Pointe in Munster, says their on-site massage therapy program has been increasing in popularity.

Massage therapists visit local hospitals, where employees can get a 15-minute chair massage. Appointments are booked online and can be paid through payroll deduction.

With the addition of dim lighting and relaxing music, more employees are signing up.

“For this 15 minutes, it’s more like an escape,” Lozano says. “You’re really doing something healthy for yourself and turning your mind off work for a few minutes.”

Lozano, who’s been in the business 20 plus years, says breaks are good preventative maintenance, especially with so much computer and texting taking place during a work day.

Stretching muscles and getting their blood flowing can really help with preventing carpal tunnel, tendonitis, and issues with elbows and joints, she says.

“I think people get so caught up in what they’re doing that they feel like they’re going to get behind if they stop. But everything you ever read, it’s always better to get away for a little while than keep going, going, going, all day. You come back with a clearer perspective and it’s more clear after you’ve taken that little break.”

Once they experience the massage therapy one time, then they realize they need it. Some people still feel that massages are a luxury, she says, but nowadays it’s maintenance.

“It can help as much as a workout. It’s not just a pampering thing. We get more of a therapeutic clientele. I preach you have to take care of yourself before you can take care of other people. You have to feel good so you can pass it onto others.”

For those who work on their feet, a different kind of break can make their day.

Paula Ketcham, of Griffith, is a culinary specialist for kitchen and events at a hotel chain. She says that during breaks at her work, she and her coworkers like to relax together during down times. “My coworkers and I like to sit and eat our meals. We chat with each other about everything from work to home life.”

They also enjoy playing app games such as Family Feud, 4pics 1word and Candy Crush but the hotel’s Wi-Fi didn’t reach the break room. During an employee survey, they requested Wi-Fi and were surprised and happy when it was put in less than a month later. Now in addition to playing the games, they can watch TV and movies on Netflix.

“It's nice to get away mentally, letting our minds relax and have fun,” she says.

“Sometimes I do think having access to fitness equipment would be nice too but our jobs are very physical and we are on our feet, hard floors, for our entire shift. A good sit down is just what we need.”

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