After a period of intense focus, or when you’re feeling stuck, taking just a few minutes away from your desk and looking up from your screen can be just the thing you need. In fact, researchers have found that taking regular mini-breaks during the day can help shift your perspective when you feel stressed, and help you return to your work feeling recharged and refocused.

We asked our Thrive community to share the small ways they build pauses into their day, and how it helps them stay mindful and focused. Which of these strategies will you try?

Take a power nap

“Most days, I seek a little rejuvenation by walking outside, going to get a glass of lime water, and taking a seven-minute power nap in the early afternoon. I do my creative brain work in the mornings, repetitive tasks and reading in the afternoon, and physical activity in the evenings. This set routine helps with my productivity!”

—Stephen P. Brown, conductor and composer, U.K.

Look at a meaningful memento 

“When I am out of touch with my flow, I use my favorite trusted reminder bracelet. Years ago, I found this beautiful beaded bracelet that reminded me of my trip to Asia. The bracelet held a surprise, as each hour it had a little pulsing that reminded me to focus on my daily intention. Simply wearing the bracelet allows me the gift of hourly gratitude and relaxation.”

—Joy Miller, Ph.D., licensed clinical professional counselor, Peoria, IL

Do a five-minute meditation

“To avoid burnout, I’ve committed to a mindfulness practice every hour or so. This can be a short and sweet run-through of gratitudes, a celebratory biscuit for items ticked off my do list, tea on the balcony, and oddly, tidying up my office. My favorite, however, is a five-minute meditation on the Insight Timer app with a warm eye mask.”

—Michele Alise, brand strategist and visual designer, Costa Mesa, CA

Text a friend

“I have started to proactively check in on friends randomly throughout the day. I’ll send a ‘How are you?’ text, or a ‘Just thinking of you’ message to someone on my mind. The act of reaching out makes me feel connected and puts whatever I’m working on in perspective.”

—Deb Gordon, health care leader and author, Cambridge, MA 

Schedule “me time” into your calendar

“I schedule slots for ‘me time’ in my calendar. Formally adding time to pause reminds me to treat it as seriously as everything else that lives in my calendar. It also ensures that no one books a meeting with me during that time. These pockets of ‘me time’ might consist of me going outside for a walk, doing a little online shopping, or simply closing my office door to meditate. It allows me to center my thoughts on things outside of work and gives me a much-needed breather during a busy day.”  

—Zoe Hunter, program manager and entrepreneur, New Haven, CT

Take your pets outside

“I work from home, which has myriad challenges and benefits. I used to find myself using a mini-break to tackle some other to-do item, like folding laundry or unloading the dishwasher. Time and again, I felt overwhelmed, resentful, and frustrated that I never got a real break. Now, I pause by playing catch with my dogs. They love the attention and it gets me outside. Sometimes I’ll add jumping jacks or some other physical activity to clear my head.”

—Cathy Schroeder, PR consultant, Tallahassee, FL

Refill your water bottle

“One of my favorite ways to take a short pause throughout the day is to step away from my desk and fill up my water bottle. If I only have a few minutes, I’ll fill up my water bottle in the break room in my office. If I have extra time to spare, I like to take a short walk across my building and find a water bottle filling station nearby. There’s no better way to stay focused and mindful than to move your body and stay hydrated.”

—Alyssa Swantkoski, executive assistant, Denver, CO

Laugh it off

“I laugh! It immediately lightens your mood, increases your oxygen intake, and even engages your core muscles when you deeply chuckle. I try to take a moment or two to laugh each day. I either watch a comedian online, a clip from a movie, or a humorous GIF!”

—Jennifer Burns Katafigiotis, founder and CEO, Lyndhurst, NJ

Implement “refueling breaks”

“I like to think of short pauses throughout the day as ‘refueling breaks,’ where I do something that energizes me, whether that’s writing down three things I am grateful for, eating a healthy snack, sending a text to someone I care about, or preparing a few small love notes to put in my children’s backpacks. These are all things that give me great doses of energy and help increase my focus for the next task at hand. I might set my alarm to go off every hour as a reminder to take these refueling breaks.”

—Eda Schottenstein, productivity coach, founder, and CEO, Miami, FL

Go outside

“For a quick reset when I get distracted, my go-to strategy is to get outside, stand in the sunlight, drink a glass of water, and breathe deeply.  If I am really stressed, I will go for a 30-minute run to clear my mind, and then return with a refreshed perspective.”

—Robyn Coleman, social scientist and researcher, South Africa

Pet your dog

“I recharge through connection and love. I get up from my laptop and visit my dog, Tiny, a 24-pound terrier mix. She is usually not too far away because she guards me while I work. Still, pausing to greet her properly brings me joy during a busy day.”

—Deb Gordon, health care leader and author, Cambridge, MA 

Reflect on a past setback

“I find it helpful to constantly remind myself that the darkest night always dawns. I maintain a list of all the times I thought and felt that I couldn’t make it, and how all those moments somehow got tackled. That reminder energizes me instantly. I stop stressing and find an extra boost to keep going.”

—Allan Chege, small business owner, Ft. Worth, TX

Look out the window

“I take little breaks throughout the day by looking around the room or out the window. I do this with intention by asking myself what catches my eye and appeals to me. I have learned that when we get curious about the space around us, we engage a part of the brain that calms our nervous system, and that actually makes us feel safer!” 

—Dyan Haspel-Johnson, psychologist and hypnotherapist, Santa Monica, CA

Start a “10 when you can” ritual

“Our team has implemented a ‘10 when you can’ ritual. We take regular breaks together, where we either go for a 10-minute walk or do another activity away from our desks.  It’s proven to be a wonderful strategy to pause and recharge, but also a great way to do some team-building.”

—Carrie McEachran, executive director, Sarnia, ON, Canada

Carve out “white spaces”

“I recently listened to a TED Talk about ‘white spaces,’ little brief breaks throughout your workday that combat multitasking. I work from home, so staying on task is imperative. By implementing these ‘white spaces,’ whether that means taking a walk outside, trying breathing exercises, or playing with my dog for a few minutes, I find that I have improved focus and clarity afterward.”

—Shelby Sudnick, tribe relations coordinator, Wilkes Barre, PA

Take a walk with co-workers

“To recharge, I do a combination of some movement and some social interaction! I’ll either ask a co-worker to go for a walk with me and talk about the positive things going on in our lives, or I’ll do a few body weight exercises and call a friend to let them know I’m grateful for them. I always feel energized and super happy afterwards.”

—Kristi Farmer, fitness professional, Wind Lake, WI

Check in with your future self

“I check in with my ‘older wiser self’ when I find myself starting to wobble in stress. I see her in my mind — a future version of myself, who knows where I’ve been and where I am going because she’s already been there. She lovingly offers me wisdom in the moment, which nurtures, calms, and recharges me.”

—Diane Harrison, counsellor, mediator, and executive coach, Stoney Creek, ON

Do you have a go-to tip that helps you pause and recharge during the day? Share it with us in the comments!

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  • Marina Khidekel

    Chief Content Officer at Thrive

    Marina leads strategy, ideation and execution of Thrive's content company-wide, including cross-platform brand partnership and content marketing campaigns, curricula, and the voice of the Thrive platform. She's the author of Thrive's first book, Your Time to Thrive. In her role, Marina brings Thrive's audience actionable, science-backed tips for reducing stress and improving their physical and mental well-being, and shares those insights on panels and in national outlets like NBC's TODAY. Previously, Marina held senior editorial roles at Women's Health, Cosmopolitan, and Glamour, where she edited award-winning health and mental health features and spearheaded the campaigns and partnerships around them.