Time to chill out

Except... except... when you get back to work all those aspirations and calm certainties evaporate quicker than a popcicle on an Antiguan beach. And that's because the hard-working masses (and business owners this applies to you more than anyone) forget to relax in their day-to-day lives. Never a moment goes by when we're not checking emails on our iPhones or making just one more quick client call or running over those figures mentally to quadruple-check them one last time.

We need to chill out. Not in a hippy escape-the-rat-race way, but because interspersing work with healthy doses of relaxation actually makes us more productive. It enables us to retain information better: recent studies by both the University of Michigan and the University of California found memories form better when we take a break from activity. Loren Frank, a professor from the University of California, told The New York Times: "Almost certainly, downtime lets the brain go over experiences it's had, solidify them and turn them into permanent long-term memories." (Note that TV and internet do not count as 'downtime' - only less mentally-stimulating activities such as walking or exercise qualify).

And all this stress is damaging our health, which in turn inhibits our psychological ability to work efficiently. Almost half of 1,400 business leaders, full-time workers and GPs felt stressed in a survey held by Norwich Union last year. One in five of those asked were also suffering from depression, 46% suffered from insomnia, a third from migraines and one in five from anxiety attacks or palpitations - not exactly conducive to a good day in the office, dear.

So while we understand that it might be tempting to work 16 hours straight to get that brief finished, you're not helping yourself if you don't take breaks. We're not going to tow the eight hours sleep a night and eight hours work a day line - we know that's laughable for many of you (though for those of you who manage your time well enough to do it, keep it up!). But we strongly advise just giving yourself 10 or 20 minutes out every now and then. Take a walk around the block, go for a jog, listen to music that makes you sing so joyfully you forget completely what you were thinking about. Just do something to take your mind off what you were doing.

You may lose 20 minutes work-time, but you'll gain double that back in productivity when you return to your task with a refreshed mind and properly formed thoughts and memories to refer back to in the days and weeks ahead.

Want to know the best ways to relax mid-work-day? Read a blog we wrote last year on how to combat stress.

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