With work pressure increasing in practically all sectors its not uncommen for people to remain stuck at their desk for hours and taking their “lunch” while tapping away at the computer or taking a call. On the long term this is wreaking havoc on concentration levels, health and productivity.
Under stress your sympathetic nervous system is on alert flooding your body with stress hormones that accelerate your heart beat, increase your blood pressure, dilate your pupils and inhibit other body functions like your digestion. At some stage however the calming side of your body, the parasympathetic nervous system, will want to reduce the arousal system, bringing everything back into balance and tiredness creeping in. Its a natural body reaction that you can’t control.
We need a good balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system – between the arousal and recuperation phases.
Research has indicated that most concentration levels start sinking rapidly after about 50 minutes of uninterrupted work on a computer. At the latest after 70 minutes your parasympathetic nervous system will start taking over. This is the time to take a short 5-10 minute break. And a break is only really a break if you interrupt your work and do something completely different, like opening a window, taking a deep breath, looking at the bird in the tree across the road or chatting to a colleague.
If you have an office job you will have spent some 80,000 hours of your lifetime in a sitting position until you reach retirement age. This is an enormous strain on your back, neck, skeletal and body alignment system. Interrupting your work for 15-20 minutes a day to do some active stretching movements, will work wonders for your health, your mood and your concentration and work ability.
Pushing your break of say half an hour until the end of the work day practically has no recuperation effect. Regular shorter breaks after every hour are far more effective. Taking a power nap of between 15-20 minutes in the early afternoon works very well for some people. It should however not be longer as you then fall into the deep-sleep mode and will wake up more fatigued.
If you have had days, weeks or months of high stress, your body will very likely have high cortisol levels. It means vital organs in your body are being undernourished because your body is in a “fight or flight” mode. You need recuperation, a time out, to bring those stress hormones back to normal. Best you choose a place where you can lock away your cell phone and focus your mind on anything else but work. Check out also our outdoor coaching programmes.
Reino Gevers, coach, trainer, author
PowerBodyMind – Gevers Consulting