It’s not easy to hit the “stop” button when you work from home. The very convenience of your computer, your email, everything is right there. Even with my kids home, doing their own thing, it’s so easy to get lost in what I have to do. I forget to do something each day I want to do. It can be as simple as cuddling on the couch to watch a movie, but more often it’s finding time to do something quiet, and alone.

Between work, family, errands, and chores, we all need a time for a brain break. Are you taking one often enough?

How I define a real break

For me, a brain break means doing something that I can fully immerse myself into. I’m not simultaneously thinking about what’s still on my day’s to-do list. I’m not listening for the inevitable call of, “Mom,” from my kids. I’m not mentally writing my next piece for work in my head (yes, I do that.) A true break for me takes place in a quiet space, with minimal risk for interruption. I can do something creative and feel a sense of accomplishment that’s just for me.

The best part of a brain break, for me, is the quiet. I don’t have music or a show playing in the background. I’m usually in a room all by myself. I get real quiet. It’s a tough thing to find on a usual day, but during a pandemic, when everyone is home, it’s at a high premium. I didn’t know how much I missed quiet until I was never able to find it. It’s a major component to a successful break for me.

What I like to do

Brain breaks and creativity go hand-in-hand for me. As a content writer, I’m creative all the time, but in a very specific way. Writing uses different creative muscles than other crafty projects. Separating the two allows me to feel like the projects I do that don’t involve writing are a true break. For that reason, my brain breaks end up consisting of:

  • Puzzles
  • Adult coloring books
  • Random crafts

Right now, my random craft are those gem art kits. They’re time-consuming, and detail-oriented, a perfect distraction. They also create an excellent sense of accomplishment when done.

For my puzzles, I keep them at 800 pieces minimum so they’re an actual investment in time. When not working on one, I roll it up and store it in my office. This is just something for me, unless it’s really hard and I ask for help. There’s no rush to complete a puzzle. I can easily roll them up and store them away. I finish it when I finish it, and it feels great.

I have two coloring books and one color-by-number book I rotate between. I keep a nice set of colored pencils and markers with them. I don’t share with my kids. These are my crafts, and a part of the comfort they provide is knowing where they are at all times. The minute I share, I’ll never see the stuff again.

The common denominator
Between all these brain break activities, the connector is the level of detail necessary to complete them. My mind can’t wander because I need to pay attention to what I’m doing. A distracted brain and I can’t find the right puzzle piece, will color the wrong spot, or will tip over the container of very small gems. The need for concentration takes me out of all the things I have to complete for others. I do just for myself, and that matters.

The importance of self-care

We all have our own thing that helps alleviate the stress of a regular day, but how often are we able to incorporate it into our schedule? It gets easier to put off the things we want to just do because what we have to do ultimately feels more important. If the work doesn’t get done, there’s no paycheck. If the kids aren’t cared for, the errands aren’t run, well, you know. And, it’s true that it all has to get done, but not at the expense of a little block of time to take a break.

As the pandemic goes on, I’ve found that the best way to ensure I can take a break is to create realistic to-do lists. I break up tasks over the course of a week where I’m not over-scheduling myself. I set deadlines far enough in advance that if they slip by a day, it’s okay. Managing my schedule with brain breaks already on my to-do list makes them more likely to happen. And, when they happen, I am a much nicer person to be around.


Photo by Ross Sneddon on Unsplash