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The Power Of A Pause

Written by: Shona Hirons, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

Do you know how many times I’ve hit burnout? Not once, but twice. How the hell could I hit burnout when I spent my teenage years swimming at a high level for my country?

businessman relaxing at desk in office after work, arms behind head and eyes closed.

Before a big event, I would train for two hours, twice a day, six days per week, and although I worked hard, I didn’t once burn out. How?


I had a good leader that’s how.


His name was Colin and he showed me that it was hugely important for both my physical and mental health to take a break. He taught me that it was important to get off the hamster wheel, otherwise I was setting myself up for failure from an early age.


By taking the foot off the gas, I was less likely to burn out, suffer an injury and fall out of love with the sport.


Colin was right! I witnessed other swimmers with different coaches who were training more than me, but their performance wasn’t as good as mine. Some also suffered injuries that stopped their swimming careers there and then, all because they didn’t rest. For many of them, they stopped doing sport altogether and got into bad habits and trouble.


I didn’t believe Colin at first, because my mindset was to always keep pushing myself, even if it did mean me being emotionally and physically drained.


What was this mindset teaching me?


Unfortunately, I lost track of this mindset for over 20 years when I left my swimming career and focused on my career as a Lawyer.


I guess, being at the top of my game in swimming, I had developed a typical Type A personality, which made me super competitive. This was the downside of being at my level.


I wanted to win at everything and I felt the only way to win in my career was to work the hardest, but this didn’t always involve being the smartest. It didn’t help that the company I worked for, awarded their staff who worked the longest hours a badge of honour.


I lost control of my boundaries, I felt like I was working around the clock, and I would even go a whole week without washing my hair, because I just didn’t have time.


What changed?


I now realise that it was my relationship with time that was wrong. It had to take a life-changing accident in 2017 for me to slow down and reflect on the wisdom that Colin had taught me all those years ago.


I won’t forget this again. Now I run my own business and I do work hard, but I work smarter. I take regular breaks throughout the day, which I like to call ‘Movement Snacks’. I always take a ‘fake commute’ before and after work, as I work from home and it is important to start my day off with the mindset of leaving the house to come back to the office, and at the end of the day to leave the office and come back to the house.


Every day, I schedule five must-do work related tasks into my calendar and five must-do things to do for myself into my calendar. I call this my ‘Achievement List’.


I am much happier these days, I am far more productive, my performance is better and I feel younger than I did 10 years ago.


Scientific evidence that taking breaks improves your focus and performance


Microsoft recently carried our research on people who had four video calls back to back without taking breaks, compared to those who took a 5-10 minute break in between each call. The results clearly show that the ones who took no breaks, were unable to concentrate and focus as well as the ones who did take a few minutes out to recharge.


Even though breaks were taken, those who took them were a lot less stressed and thus able to focus and perform better, so they actually got more done.


It is also important to take the right type of breaks. Some breaks can increase fatigue, such as drinking caffeine, snacking on unhealthy snacks and online shopping.


When you take your breaks, do something completely different. Move away from your desk and do something that’s fun. I like to put a favourite song on and dance and sing around the room for a few minutes, or play with my dog.


When you do something you enjoy, you will feel happier and increase blood flow to the parts of the brain that need to focus.


Does this resonate with you?


If you’re constantly working into your social time and on the weekends, and you’ve stopped doing the things that make you happy, take stock and let me be your Colin.


Believe me, you won’t get to the end of your life and wish that you’d worked more hours.


Follow me on Facebook, LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info!


 

Shona Hirons, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Shona Hirons is an award-winning global Resilience and Burnout Coach. A breakdown from work-related stress, which led to a life-changing accident, requiring major facial reconstructive surgery and brain damage, gave her a big wake-up call. During her recovery, she went on a journey of self-discovery to rebuild her resilience, consider her values and achieve all the things she was told she couldn't do. Shona has developed strategies to boost her resilience, and now helps others to do the same. She is the CEO of Mindset in Motion, and a leader in corporate wellbeing, working with corporate clients in over 195 countries. Her mission: To improve the well-being of people and businesses throughout the world.

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