Have you heard about the “Solo Practitioner Syndrome” that can strike when least expected? Symptoms start with delusions about unreturned phone calls and e-mails. Eventually a cloud of stress looms over the lone professional working alone in an office or at home. Relax! Practice a few healthy distraction techniques (take recess!) during your day and step away from the role of ship’s captain and crew for a few minutes. CAUTION: If you do not take breaks, you might go nuts.
I call it recess for adults. Here is an example of afternoon cat recess at my home office.
Call it nutty but as a pet owner, I actively encourage balance in my cat’s life. Exercise and social needs of animals should balance with nutrition and general health concerns. When I work from home, it is the cat and me. Her name is MJ Catface (Yes that is a Facebook page hyperlink) and she is a 2-year-old Bombay (her breed is intelligent and a little clingy). Like clockwork, she wakes from a daily nap around 3:30 pm and wants to socialize and play for a half hour before going down again for another nap. I have learned to incorporate the cat’s needs into my own balanced workday.
Mid-afternoon is a good time to step away from your desk and stretch before pushing through the late afternoon “get it done” rush. When MJ Catface jumps on my desk mid-afternoon, I have two choices: (1) engage her need to play; or (2) deal with her biting my phone cord, kicking pens off the desk, chewing papers, and causing general destruction to my workspace. I’ve learned to take a “cat break” and socialize through playing with toys or the more exiting impromptu dance party that get’s MJ all excited (she knows she’s going to get a T – R – E – A – T). After a few minutes, she picks a new afternoon sleeping spot and chills out so I can finish the tasks on my daily agenda.
I don’t have a pet at work, am I screwed?
What if you don’t have a pet where you work? Resist the urge to throw in the towel and jump out the window – there are other options! While it may sound elementary, it makes sense to take a break to interact with others during your adult recess. Call Mom. Call Dad. Call and talk to anyone, but make sure it has nothing to do with your current workday. I rarely talk to my cat about work because she does not care!
Taking a breath and stepping away from work is encouraged and even mandated by several companies with mandatory lunch policies. When I was a lad, I worked at a bank that made me take lunch and go get some mid-day exercise. At the time, I would have preferred to plow through the noon hour and get more work done so I could leave earlier and get the jump on traffic. Was my mentality wrong and was I hitting invisible walls?
When we get involved in work and do not take breaks, we lose the benefit of pausing to reflect. If you give yourself a break, even for 10 minutes, you can re-approach your work by first recalling a summary of your progress and where you need to go with work.
Don’t over exercise your brain – it needs a break!
Think of your brain as a muscle that needs a break every so often. Take a short recess during the workday and step away from your desk, call someone, run around the building, or catch the day’s news. When you think about your workday as a series of activities and events, you are less likely to experience solo practitioner syndrome.
Do you take recess breaks at work? What do you do to step away for a few?