5 Reasons You Need to Take a Break

by Ellen Lee on March 21, 2013
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It’s easy to get caught up in the hamster wheel of running a small business. But, although it may seem like a waste of precious time, it’s important to take an occasional break.

For at least a few minutes, a few times each day, walk away from your computer. Put down your smartphone. And forget about your never-ending to-do list. Here’s why:

1. Your best ideas come to you when you’re relaxed. There’s a reason that people talk about having “aha” moments in the shower. While you’re bathing, you tend to relax, feel distracted, and enjoy an increased flow of dopamine — a combination that makes your brain more likely to think up creative ideas, notes Leo Widrich on the productivity blog Buffer.

2. Your mind needs to rest and recharge. Like a muscle, your brain needs to take a break after focusing on a task for a long period of time. You may not “strain” your brain as you would a muscle, but after a period of time, you may find that you’re unable to concentrate as well as when you began the task at hand. One study found that paying too much attention to one activity hinders performance.

3. Your brain becomes more resilient. Continuing the comparison to a muscle, your brain needs to recover after a workout in order to make gains. Thinking — and stressing those neurons — followed by adequate rest ultimately strengthens the brain. You can’t have one but not the other.

4. Your brain needs time to process new information. During a break, your brain reviews the experiences it’s had and turns them into “permanent long-term memories,” says Loren Frank, an assistant professor at UC San Francisco, in The New York Times. That downtime allows the brain to learn and better remember important data. Too much stimulation, such as multitasking on your smartphone while you’re exercising, prevents that learning and processing from happening.

5. It’s good for your body. Too much stress leads to heart disease, depression, digestive problems, obesity, and other health problems. Long-term health troubles could take you away from the business you’ve built. Taking time to unwind now can help relieve stress before it’s too late — and help you approach the inevitable challenges of running a small business in a calm and collected manner.

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