SUMMARY: Incorporating relaxation into the day can drastically reduce stress levels. Not only does it improve physical and mental capacities, but it makes you feel good. Try these relaxing breaks with your coworkers or on your own.

Team stretch

How to take this break

Get your team members to contribute to a stretching "pot" by donating resistance bands, hands and ankle weights, and yoga mats. Find a place where you can stretch together in the office, a meeting room or possibly an outside green space.

Why this counts

Regular stretch breaks can help to reduce tension and energize you for the rest of the day.

Ideas for this activity were contributed by:

Sandy Richardson, Public Health Nurse, Middlesex London Health Unit; Katie Cino, Health Promoter, Niagara Public Health; Andrea Hamblin, Director - EAP Account Management, Morneau Shepell.

Work some yoga into your day

How to take this break

Co-workers can actually stay at their own desks and a meeting reminder could be sent daily to encourage staff to take this break time. Link to Yoga @ your desk

Why this counts

Yoga breaks during the workday can help employees relieve stress and become refreshed and more focused for the rest of the workday.

Ideas for this activity were contributed by:

Donna Kubik, Wellness & Accommodation Consultant - IWK Health Centre, Halifax Area Healthy Workplace Network Meeting; Katie Cino, Health Promoter, Niagara Public Health; Halifax Disability Management Services Office, The Canada Life Assurance Company.

Take a walk in nature even if you’re in the city!

How to take this break

This activity can be used during breaks at meetings or in group settings and features a nature slide show with a narrator speaking or just the narrator speaking and employees visualizing what the narrator says. As the narrator leads the employee(s) on the walk, the slide would change (e.g., a hill to climb, a river to cross using a bridge or pointing to skydivers in the sky). At the end of the "walk" stretching is encouraged.

Why this counts

By incorporating relaxation into your day, you can drastically reduce stress levels in the body, and improve both your physical and mental health.

Ideas for this activity were contributed by:

Myrna Ojala, Reg. N, Public Health Nurse, Sudbury & District Health Unit.

Start a game reaction

How to take this break

Set aside some space at work for a game such as scrabble. Let everyone contribute by adding a word to the board. Keep this going until the board is full and start the game again. Other game suggestions are brain teasers, chess and crossword puzzles.

Why this counts

Taking time away from your desk to relax and enjoy a game or creative activity is a great, productive way of releasing stress.

Ideas for this activity were contributed by:

Dr. Owen Garrett, Psychologist, Active Insights Health Care; Anne Winters, Manager, Interior Health; Ashley Nichols, Human Resources Advisor, Coastal Community Credit Union.

Set a reminder to breathe deep

How to take this break

Set a reminder/chime on your computer or phone. When the reminder sounds, stop what you are doing, sit still for two minutes and focus on your breathing. Focus on the words 'breathe in' and 'breathe out' to reduce other thoughts going through your mind. Arrange another reminder to sound after the two minutes.

Why this counts

Deep breathing is one of the best ways to lower stress in the body because when you breathe deeply it sends a message to your brain to calm down and relax.

Ideas for this activity were contributed by:

Janice MacInnis, Coordinator, Organizational Health, Dalhousie University; Sarah Schuster, Client Relationship Manager, Global Corporate Challenge; Kathy Nolan, Health & Benefits Consultant, Kwantlen Polytechnic University; Anyaa Rose, EAP Counselor; Carla Hanna, Health Promoter, Halton Region Health Dept.; Dianna Conley, Director, Human Resources, George Derby Centre.; Mary Beth Doyle, EAP Coordinator, Public Service Commission, Gov NL; Charlene Mo, Workplace Health Consultant, Alberta Health Services.

Get artsy and crafty

How to take this break

Set aside some space at work for arts and crafts. Start a craft or painting and let everyone add on to it for a surprising result.

Why this counts

We can actually be energized by activities that make us think of something else beyond work and challenge our capacity for thought and creativity.

Ideas for this activity were contributed by:

Dr. Owen Garrett, Psychologist, Active Insights Health Care; Anne Winters, Manager, Interior Health; Ashley Nichols, Human Resources Advisor, Coastal Community Credit Union.

Stretch your break time

How to take this break

Schedule time in your workday for regular stretch breaks.

Why this counts

Regular stretch breaks can help to reduce tension and energize you for the rest of the day.

Ideas for this activity were contributed by:

Sandy Richardson, Public Health Nurse, Middlesex London Health Unit; Katie Cino, Health Promoter, Niagara Public Health; Andrea Hamblin, Director - EAP Account Management, Morneau Shepell.

The world loves a smile

How to take this break

Get up from your desk and smile at your co-workers as you walk around your office.

Why this counts

Smiling feels good, can lift your mood and is sure to help lift the spirits of others as well. There is also some evidence that smiling can provide a number of health benefits including relieving stress, lowering blood pressure and even improving the immune system.

Ideas for this activity were contributed by:

Kelly Seymour, Director of Human Resources, New Path Youth & Family Services; Andrea Frustaci, GIS Analyst II, Teck Resources Limited.

Check in on yourself

How to take this break

The Psychology Foundation provides Staying on Top of Your Game™ , an Interactive Wheel to help you assess how you are doing. Answer the questions and see where you may have room for improvement.

Why this counts

Ideas for this activity were contributed by:

Judy Hills, The Psychology Foundation.

Share a comic

How to take this break

Clip and post comic strips or cartoons that your co-workers can laugh at and relate to.

Why this counts

In addition to making us feel good, sharing a laugh has a number of health benefits including lowering blood pressure, reducing stress hormones, increasing memory and learning, and improving alertness and creativity.

Ideas for this activity were contributed by:

Halifax Disability Management Services Office, The Canada Life Assurance Company.

Walk or wheel and stretch for 10 minutes

How to take this break

Start at your desk/workstation with a brief, two-minute warm up exercise (including flexing and rotating the shoulders and neck). Use a stress ball during walking or wheeling activity. If your work is mostly physical in nature, try to focus your mind to relax and be calm.

Why this counts

By incorporating relaxation into your life, you can drastically reduce the stress levels in the body and improve both your physical and mental health.

Ideas for this activity were contributed by:

Morris Lowe, Public Health Nurse, Toronto Public Health.

Focus on the positive

How to take this break

Find a quiet space, sit in a chair with feet on the floor, palms on your lap, sitting tall. Close your eyes or soften your gaze (look at the floor) and notice how you feel. Focus on your breath, the expansion of your belly as it expands on the inhale and contracts as you exhale. Breathe normally and notice how you feel now compared to when you started. When you are ready, open your eyes.

Why this counts

By incorporating relaxation into your life, you can drastically reduce the stress levels in the body and improve both your physical and mental health.

Ideas for this activity were contributed by:

Juliette Fraser, Return to Work & Wellness Coordinator, District of West Vancouver.

Play dough

How to take this break

Make or buy play dough and place it in a break room or common area. Encourage team members to make their own creation or add to one for funny results.

Why this counts

Taking time away from your desk to relax and enjoy a game or creative activity is a great, productive way of releasing stress and having some much-needed workplace fun.

Ideas for this activity were contributed by:

Dr. Owen Garrett, Psychologist, Active Insights Health Care; Anne Winters, Manager, Interior Health; Ashley Nichols, Human Resources Advisor, Coastal Community Credit Union.

Tea party

How to take this break

Gather your work group together for some social interaction over a cup of herbal tea or, if you're alone (or prefer to be), sip along to some relaxing music. Group members can bring different types of tea for the other members to sample.

Why this counts

Tea can refresh you and provide a break that helps you feel relaxed, focused and alert.

Ideas for this activity were contributed by:

Kate Lekas, Health Enhancement Coordinator, City of Vancouver.

Break buddies

How to take this break

Some of us need a gentle (or not so gentle) push to get away from our desks for regular breaks. Work with a buddy or partner in your office to be accountable for each other's breaks throughout the week.

Why this counts

By incorporating relaxation into your life, you can drastically reduce the stress levels in the body and improve both your physical and mental health.

Ideas for this activity were contributed by:

Workplace Strategies for Mental Health

Watch a funny video clip

How to take this break

Take a break and laugh out loud by watching skits of funny people. This activity could be done as a group break at someone's computer or in a break room with a screen.

Why this counts

Laughing makes you feel good and it reduces stress. A little comic relief in the workplace can also help build camaraderie and enhance teamwork.

Ideas for this activity were contributed by:

Cathy Lockhart, Manager, Workplace Health & Safety, Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation; Vancouver Disability Management Services Office, The Canada Life Assurance Company.