Why Your Brain Needs a Break Just Like Any Other Muscle
If you’re like us (and you probably are, because you’re reading this site!), you feel like you’re always busy. When you can access emails as easily as you can Snapchat (thanks, smartphones), and working from home is frequently an option (when did the couch become your desk?), it can be hard to achieve work-life balance even when you want to.
But, according to research, taking recovery time from all that thinking and problem-solving and decision-making is just as important as staying out of the gym to recover the day after a hard workout. For those of us who are especially Type A (you know who you are), it can be hard not to immediately eliminate every item on our to-do list. But while it might feel like you’re accomplishing a lot, in reality, your work and focus are suffering if you keep going at that can’t-stop-won’t-stop rate all day long.
In this study, researchers focused on analyzing the lateral prefrontal cortex (LPFC) section of the brain, which manages our self-control and impulsivity. They measured subjects’ performance on working memory and task-switching exercises over a six-hour period, modeled after a typical work day.
If subjects started taking shortcuts or focusing on the “immediate rewards” in their tasks, the researchers knew that meant the LFPC was getting fatigued. And there was a definite increase in impulsivity among participants who were given harder tasks versus those in the control group who either had easier things to do or took breaks throughout the day. So basically, the harder you work, the less effective you may be.
If taking breaks from work doesn’t come naturally to you, try specifically scheduling them in your calendar. (We know you live and die by that Google Cal. You have to do whatever it tells you.) You should also make a point of actually taking your vacation days. Too many people don’t, either because they feel like they “don’t have time,” or are afraid of how being away from the office might look.
And if your boss just doesn’t get it? Push aside all that extra work they just piled on your desk and put in that PTO request anyway — you can tell them science has your back.
Do you have trouble setting work-life balance? Tweet us your tips for giving your brain a break @BritandCo!
(Photos via Getty)