Just breathe. Pause. Take a break. Often in the busy-ness of the world we live in, we forget to schedule in some sort of rest period between all the activities we are doing. Taking breaks gives your brain and body the opportunity to get the necessary recharge it needs. And rest doesn’t mean at the end of your business call, you spend 15 minutes scrolling Instagram on your phone! A break is a break from screen time. Even having a glass of water and staring at a blank wall for 5 minutes is good for your stress levels. Your cortisol (stress hormone) will go down and your oxytocin (love hormone) will start to go up. The longer a break, the more relaxing it feels, the more your brain chemistry will react.
You can even train yourself to start releasing these chemicals — if you take a similar break at the same time every day, your body will start to prepare itself for this break. Scheduling in your lunch hour to go for a walk in the park is a great option. We’ve all got to eat, eating keeps our stamina up for all the busy things we need to do. Plan to grab a sandwich or something easy to eat on the go, and GO! Go for a stroll around your office complex, if there’s no park. Anything that keeps you away from screens and makes you feel relaxed. Maybe walking isn’t your jam, that’s okay, sit by the pond and feed your breadcrumbs to the ducks. The pause from your day doesn’t have to be specific, it just needs to be intentional.
One of the activities that can help us remember that we need to take a break, and even open us to our creative mind, is making crafts. Right now, a mindful craft to encourage taking that break is making a bookmark. Not the sort you’d keep in your web-browser, but the real paper sort that you might use in an actual book. We use a ‘bookmark’ to mark the place we stopped. Sometimes we need to stop because something else has come up, sometimes we choose to stop because we’ve just read something extraordinary and we need to let it sink in, whatever the reason, we don’t want to lose the place we’re at so we use a slip of paper or a card or a string to hold that spot for us to come back to at a later time.
The purpose of this activity is to get creative around giving ourselves permission to take a break, to breathe, to PAUSE in the work we are doing and take in what is happening in the moment; what our body is feeling, what our mind is thinking, and how the two are connected.
Take a moment to brainstorm some words or objects that mean ‘pause’ to you. Maybe a sleep mask signifies taking a break, or seeing the paw-print of a cat or dog will make you think “PAWS” or “pause”. Sometimes thinking about taking a breather, or a brief hiatus will be the pointer you need. Whatever works for you is going to be a personal choice.
Here’s some words that were added to the wordcloud: halt, hiatus, interlude, interrupt, stay, interval, lapse, still, lull, breathe, breath, recess, respite, suspend, break, cease, stop, downtime, freeze, gap, divide, hesitate, hush, rest, interim, stand, postpone, time-out, pause, breather.
Then, using cardstock or paper, cut out a book-mark shaped piece for yourself (or maybe 2 or 3!). If you don’t have cardstock, you can always use the side of a cereal box or kleenex box, something that will be a little heavier than a simple piece of white 8×11 paper. And then it’s time to get your creativity on! Using stickers, pencil crayons, collage, markers, or any other kind of creativity that comes to mind, decorate your bookmark, be sure to include at least one or more words/images that mean “take a break” for you.
The tricky part is figuring out where to keep your bookmark. Maybe making a few will take off the pressure. You can use it as an actual bookmark if you’re reading a book right now. You can hang it beside your mirror in the bathroom, or leave it on your bedside table. You can tuck it in your wallet so you’ll see it every time you take out cash or card. You can hang it from your car’s rear-view mirror (but don’t take a pause in the middle of driving, pay attention to the road!). There are so many options available, but most importantly, choose spots where you will see your bookmarks at least a couple times a day, if not more. Then, do what it says, whatever word you’ve chosen, HALT, SUSPEND, BE STILL. Take a break, you’ve more than earned it!