Why rest (aka brain breaks!) is at the foundation of being resilient and combating stress. 

A recent Microsoft study of brain wave activity found something we all probably already knew, but seem to ignore – our brain needs a break! And not just a break, lots of them, regularly, to get back to a state of clarity, minimal stress, and relaxation. It’s what I regularly say in my resilience keynotes… the real enemy of high-performance is NOT stress – it’s the lack of recovery from stress

What Microsoft’s study discovered is the underlying stress from these meetings. (How many of you already disliked all those meetings to begin with? 🙂

When COVID first began, we were all in shock, but pretty quickly we adapted and began our new normal in a more virtually connected day-to-day life. This required plenty of preparation and meetings… sometimes back to back, all day long. Especially if you were upper level management, in business ownership or had to learn new platforms to work virtually. 

The Remedy for Stress Isn’t What We Think

On a regular Tuesday, pre-covid, my day began AND ended with investing in my own self-care routine, even incorporating healthy habits in the middle of the day. 

Post-covid Tuesdays have meetings beginning before the previous meeting ended, way more coffee than I should be consuming, and the days actually don’t seem to end. (Be honest, it’s easy to take a quick meeting later because we get all the commuting time “back”.) Now, however, there’s actually plenty more stress under the surface. Microsoft’s study found that these back-to-back meetings were generating stress for participants, and the remedy was actually quite simple: short breaks. 

You might be asking, “It can’t be that easy can it? Small breaks to combat stress? That sounds too simple. I mean, shouldn’t I just be avoiding stress in the first place?“ First,  everyone does. We can’t avoid it, nor should we necessarily try. 

Yet when we consider how often we actually consciously rest our minds, it makes sense.

Consider this: When was the last time you scheduled a brain break? And actually followed through on it? 

The truth is that we get so caught up in our days, that we let them take over everything. The tasks that need to be completed take precedence over our mental health – even though they don’t really.

And here’s why: As I tell the organizations I work with…”Stress and strategy don’t mix”. We don’t have the mental clarity and capacity to complete a task in the most efficient or impactful way.  But we do it anyway – then we often end up redoing it or spending way too much time on it because our brain is stressed and not working as well as it could. 

Let’s Look At the Science

Microsoft’s research showed that the built-in breaks actually allow the brain to reset, “reducing the cumulative buildup of stress”. By looking at the activity of beta waves, the waves associated with stress, the study participants who took regular, short breaks, showed less beta waves and a more overall relaxed state. 

One important thing to remember – not all breaks are created equal. Taking a 5 minute break outside doesn’t count if you’re still thinking about the same thing you were ruminating over inside! A brain break requires your brain to actually have a break.

One Last Thing Before You Go

Now – you know I wouldn’t be Adam Markel, Resilience Keynote Speaker, if I didn’t tie this all up with a resilience bow. 

Resilience requires plenty of rest, healthy habits and self-care. We cannot expect ourselves to go full-speed all the time, on an empty tank. Click To Tweet

Resilience happens when we have clarity of mind, which only happens when we are rested and are carving time out to care for ourselves, mentally, emotionally, physically and, yes, even in spirit. 

And I’m going to take this one step further and draw a direct connection that this Microsoft article doesn’t. You know what else these short breaks build? Confidence. When we take time to turn our focus inward, even briefly, we are more connected to our authentic selves, which leads to a more confident and settled mindset. That begets true resilience.

So today, as you embark on your daily journey of virtual meetings and a task list a mile long, remember what’s going to help you do these things in a way that builds resilience and confidence, while minimizing stress

And don’t forget to let me know how it’s going. Comment below!