Commentary – Smoke breaks, without the smoke

Pearl Lorentzen

I am not a smoker, far from it. However, I believe that smokers have one good idea: taking short breaks throughout the day.

Eye strain, repetitive injuries, and just plain lack of productivity happen when people do the same thing for hours without a break.

For those of us who spend a lot of time sitting in front of a computer a break can include getting up and walking around the office or around the block. Even looking away from the screen for a while to give your eyes a break can be a rest.

Sailing on a submarine for a long period of time can be detrimental to long distance vision, or so I’ve been told.

In my own experience, my eyes and body get sore if I look at the same thing for too long. Sometimes, the words even swim on the page and screens are worse with the back light.

I value work and working hard, but I also value rest.

My first job included both office and assistant mechanical work at a trucking company. It wasn’t a union shop, but morning and afternoon coffee and lunch breaks were sacrosanct. They might not always start exactly on the hour, but we all sat down around the table and chatted. Farmers, truck drivers and others stopped by, making it part of the wider community.

When I worked at a seniors home for years, my shift started at 6:30 a.m. and ended at 3 p.m. The second coffee break was at the end of the shift. The evening shift started at 3:15 p.m., but would often come in early to have coffee with us. These experiences taught me to value breaks with others.

While studying at university and working on a computer, I find these breaks don’t have to be sitting, but often a walk around the block is more important.

That being said, a quick bite at my desk or a sandwich on the run, is fine once or twice. However, I work better and am more productive, when I take measurable specific breaks. Depending on the job, this can mean time with people or time alone. It also can change day by day.

People need rest. There are various ways of thinking about rest.

Self-care is trending on social media. It is when a person takes time to do something that they enjoy. It is also about knowing your limits. This can be little things like taking a few minutes to go outside and look at the sky, sitting in the car for an extra two minutes before facing your family, or taking time to do the daily crossword puzzle.

Companies in Japan are adding nap rooms, but many people don’t use them, since there is high emphasis on working long hours, says a Wall Street Journal report. In 2017, 190 people died of overwork in Japan.

The days where every store is closed on Sunday are long gone, but Sabbath rest still resonates. A shared day off with loved ones to rest is healthy.

However, with shift work and overtime people often don’t have regular times off with their families and friends.

For much of my work career, I’ve worked weekends. However, I try to take one day in every seven off. This means there is a lot more time for work than for rest, but that rest has a scheduled place of importance. Like other breaks what I do with that day varies.

Vacations are also important to overall health.

A variety of breaks from non-smoke smoke breaks up to weeks off can help a person stay rested and productive.

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