How to Gift Yourself an Afternoon Mental Break

There is more than one way to decompress.

PHOTOS: SHUTTERSTOCK; DESIGN: MIA COLEMAN

Picture this scenario: It’s 3 pm, you’ve hit the wall with work, but your to-do list isn’t even close to being done. Especially when working from home, it can be easy to let your job take over and end up feeling burnt out. Instead of doubling down and powering through your outstanding tasks, it’s time to give yourself a breather. Step one: put down the laptop. After that, relax with these simple ways to treat yourself and renew your focus. 

Set up an at-home coffee break

Those mid-afternoon coffee runs when you worked in an office might be out, but that doesn’t mean you have to drop the practice entirely. The routine of prepping your own cup of coffee and sitting down to enjoy it can have the same effect as running to the local coffee shop at 3 pm. Our recommendation: pop a The Original Donut Shop® One Step Vanilla Latte K-cup® pod in your Keurig® brewer, find a sunny spot, and take a second to breathe. Gifting yourself that small moment of zen will help keep you in the right mindset when it’s time to return to work.

Try mini-meditation

Doing a 30-minute meditation with soothing music and incense might sound great, but it’s not exactly feasible in the middle of a work day. Plus, it can take you out of a productive mindset. Instead, try short mental check-ins throughout your afternoon. Many meditation apps  have 5-minute breathing exercises that help you increase your mindfulness and get some fresh air (as does YouTube!) This is also a skill that you’ll get better at the more you do it, so practice often. Of course, if your 5-minute meditation becomes a 15-minute power nap, we won’t judge.

PHOTOS: SHUTTERSTOCK; DESIGN: MIA COLEMAN

Schedule a “do nothing” meeting 

Sometimes the simplest answer is the right one: just schedule a daily mental break for yourself, and log it in your work calendar so you’re not getting messages or meetings during that period. It’s an effective way to remind yourself (and, more importantly, your coworkers) that you’re off the clock and in break mode. Adding a 30-minute slot in your afternoon calendar is an easy solution, but there are also apps that sync with popular business tools that will schedule the time for you.

Get busy in the kitchen

In general, the more time away from a screen, the better. If you’re working from home, you’ve already got the perfect space for some hands-on distraction: your kitchen. Cooking something quick keeps you present and mindful as you work, and it doesn’t have to be a chore. Even simple tasks like making a snack or prepping the basics for dinner can be useful in refocusing and activating all your senses.

Head outside

Don’t underestimate what simply leaving your home can do. Taking a walk boosts your mood, your creativity, your energy, and more. Even just a quick jaunt around the block can help you reset, but the longer the better, usually. Early afternoon walks are the best time to get outside, once you’ve had time to digest lunch, since they restore your energy when it’s at a low.  If you don't have time for a walk though, making a cup of The Original Donut Shop® Coffee Regular and sipping it as you take in your backyard scenery will give yourself a boost in more ways than one.

PHOTOS: SHUTTERSTOCK; DESIGN: MIA COLEMAN

Exercise your brain 

Using down time to scroll through social media on your phone doesn’t really work — studies show that it can make you more stressed and anxious. It’s actually better to be fully focused on a task during your break, as long as it’s not work, of course. Give yourself a more effective reset by reading a few pages of a book or using a language learning app like Duolingo to exercise your whole brain, rather than just distract yourself. 

Check in with others

Having your head down at work all morning gets a lot done but can leave you feeling isolated. Social interactions will pull you out of that head space, so use your afternoon break time to check in with others. Texting a friend or family member, or messaging coworkers (about anything not work-related) is good, but a phone call or (socially distanced) catch-up is better. If you can, meet up with someone for a masked walk outside. After all, you have to replace those water cooler conversations with something.

Do some digital clean-up

It sounds simple, but organizing your digital workspace can do wonders for your productivity. Before you get back to work, start from scratch: close old tabs and documents, clear up your notifications, and try to only keep open what you actually need to focus on. It’s a simple principle: declutter your screen and give your brain a break.