Workplace blogs
Workplace blogs

Take a Break for Mind and Body Fitness

by Mary Ann Baynton, Program Director, the Great-West Life Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace13_MaryAnnBayton-2

If you are feeling snowed under by competing demands, short on patience and left with low energy at work, you aren’t alone. In 2012, an Ipsos Reid survey of over 6,600 Canadian workers, conducted on behalf of the Great-West Life Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace (The Centre), found that more than half of the respondents experienced frustration, exhaustion or irritation either “sometimes” or “often” during the previous month. These are common symptoms of mental stress. How can you better manage them at work? By engaging in self-care and paying closer attention to how you spend your time when feeling unwell, you can guide yourself to make healthier choices that can lead to…well…a good life!

So what does that mean, exactly?

One strategy that can be effective to employ when you are experiencing anxiety, feeling overwhelmed or stressed is to take a break. That doesn’t always mean requesting vacation time and planning a travel getaway, however. Instead, consider taking multiple, short breaks every day to get on a path to feeling well again.

One technique you can try is connecting with the people around you. It sounds like a simple solution, but sometimes when we’re not feeling well we isolate ourselves, when what we might really need is to make social contact. A good morning text message, a visit in the coffee lineup or a pleasant exchange at the transit stop can help you re-establish connections with co-workers, friends and family.

Another technique is pausing for mindfulness or being fully present in the moment. Even on the worst of days there is usually something we can stop to savour, such as the walk to the office, a delicious lunch or a helpful conversation with a co-worker or supervisor. Reflecting on and appreciating these experiences can help you refocus in a positive, more productive way.

Of course, we could not overlook the benefits of being active. While we may feel pressure to find time for physical activity, there is value in seemingly small efforts. Setting a goal of stepping outside your workplace at least once every day, or taking a few minutes to play in the yard with your pets or kids, can all help with keeping your mind and body healthy.

Do you still need help feeling motivated to actively pursue taking breaks for your own mental health? Remind yourself by scheduling activity during your assigned breaks on your calendar at work, or on your smartphone. You can also visit the Centre’s website at, where you can subscribe to the Take Your Break email series for weekly suggestions of no- to low-cost activities to help you and your co-workers become calmer, more energized and more physically relaxed at work.

Sometimes more than a break is required to solve our problems and improve our mental health. Seeking professional help can be vital in preventing and treating mental illness. Early identification and resolution of problems can prevent them from getting worse and you from getting overwhelmed. Explore the options that may be available under an employee assistance program (EAP) through your group benefits plan at work, or a community mental health resource such as the Canadian Mental Health Association.

See Mary Ann Baynton present on Mental Health & Workplace Wellness live at the GoodLife Fitness Health & Wellness Leadership Summit on November 25th, 2015 in Toronto. Register today and save $100 with promo code BP15. Visit and register now.

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