SUMMARY: Calming activities can help release stress and help to refocus your attention so that you can really work on tasks at hand. Use these prompts as a starting point to have a more calming break.

Take time to tidy up

How to take this break

Take 10 minutes out of your day to tidy up your workspace, and file and organize your email.

Why this counts

Creating organized workspaces gives a sense of order and control that positively influences outlook and gives a sense of calm.

Ideas for this activity were contributed by:

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

Work together on a puzzle

How to take this break

Set up a large puzzle for co-workers to work on during their break time. Consider laminating the finished puzzle and hanging it in your workplace as an ongoing reminder of the teamwork and fun that went into putting it together.

Why this counts

This is a great team-building activity that encourages everyone to get up from their desks to refocus on something different from their regular work.

Ideas for this activity were contributed by:

Dr. Owen Garrett, Psychologist, Active Insights Health Care; Group Disability Services, The Canada Life Assurance Company

Create a wall of gratitude

How to take this break

Put up a message board where people can add a note about what they are grateful for with respect to someone in your workplace.

Why this counts

People who take time every day to think about the things they are grateful for may be generally happier overall.

Ideas for this activity were contributed by:

Liz Gilbert, Health & Wellness Coordinator, Government of Canada; Michelle Saunders, Workers' Safety and Compensation Commission; Juliette Fraser, Return to Work & Wellness Coordinator, District of West Vancouver.

Get inspired

How to take this break

Subscribe to an inspirational thought for the day – every day. To get started, search "inspirational quotes" online and start saving and sharing your favorites with others.

Why this counts

Inspirational quotes may help boost morale, make you feel motivated and help you have a more positive outlook for your day.

Ideas for this activity were contributed by:

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.

Meditate

How to take this break

There are many different forms of meditation that can help you become calmer, energized and relaxed, and can be done at your desk or with co-workers. Walking, movement, laughing and gazing meditation are all worth looking into. One example is a series of videos offered by the University Health Network.

Why this counts

Meditation helps relax the muscles and reduces stress and tension.

Ideas for this activity were contributed by:

Alan Caplan, Inner Odyssey Retreats and Coaching; Ellis Basevitz, PSB Boisjoli LLP; Kate Lekas, Health Enhancement Coordinator, City of Vancouver; Angela Martin, University of Tasmania; Richard Danielson, Laurentian University.

Create an office spa

How to take this break

Consider approaching your employer about creating a calming environment and space free of phones, computers and other distractions. Include items such as soft lighting, yoga mats, blankets, soft music, books and magazines. This space is used for employees to get away from their desk and put some peace and relaxation into their day.

Why this counts

Engaging in activities that calm our minds may help reduce anxiety and help us to function and respond more effectively in difficult or stressful situations.

Ideas for this activity were contributed by:

Deborah Carmichael, Health & Benefits Consultant, Kwantlen Polytechnic University.

Post a positive message

How to take this break

Put up a whiteboard or create a chat room on line to encourage team members to write positive comments and messages of thanks on the board daily. This can be as simple as ‘project completed’.

Why this counts

Regular, meaningful positive reinforcement and feedback makes people feel appreciated and encouraged to do their best. It can move us from apathy to productivity.

Ideas for this activity were contributed by:

Marion Reeves, Wellness Coordinator, Peel Regional Police.

Write down something you are grateful for

How to take this break

Think about the reasons why you are grateful and jot them down in a journal every day. If you can't think of something to write, review previous journal entries. A journal can be an actual book or an online journal.

Why this counts

People who take time every day to think about the things they are grateful for may be generally happier overall. This is because writing this down helps people to recognize what is working in their lives and gives some time to reflect on this.

Ideas for this activity were contributed by:

Tracy Clarke, Healthy Workplace Network, Halifax Area.

Imagine your ideal vacation

How to take this break

Think about, or actually look into, a special vacation destination. Thinking about it and planning it will move you closer to the actual experience, may help to free your mind from stress and give you something to look forward to.

Why this counts

Engaging in activities that calm us and reduce anxiety helps us to continue to function and respond more rationally in difficult or stressful situations.

Ideas for this activity were contributed by:

Stan Murray, Independent Consultant, Resilience Canada.

Plant something

How to take this break

Plant flowers, vegetables or herbs in a workplace green space or in an indoor pot. You and your co-workers can use your break time to tend the plants (e.g., watering, weeding, etc.) If the garden is large enough, consider using the vegetables for a work potluck or the flowers to brighten the common area in your workplace.

Why this counts

Growing plants may lift spirits and soothe the mind and body.

Ideas for this activity were contributed by:

Sandy Richardson, Public Health Nurse, Middlesex London Health Unit.

Plan a healthy meal

How to take this break

If you enjoy cooking or looking at recipes, using your break time to plan nutritional meals can be a healthy stress reliever with physical benefits as well. Your break time planning can also equip you with a shopping list for on the way home to help reduce the stress of last-minute meal planning. You can also think about whom you can delegate the shopping or food preparation to and call them or send an email.

Why this counts

Planning meals for the week can help ensure you are eating healthy meals at work and at home and can potentially provide you with a calming break activity as you refocus your attention.

Ideas for this activity were contributed by:

Andrea Hamblin, Director - EAP Account Management, Morneau Shepell

Use your mind to scan and calm your body

How to take this break

Take a break (in silence or with calming music) and start to focus on each area of the body - starting from the tips of your toes and working up to the crown of your head.

Focus on achieving a sense of relaxation in each body part while scanning the body. Think about what you feel, what you hear and what you smell. This will help distract you from the pressures of the day by letting you get in touch with your senses.

Why this counts

Sometimes we're not even aware of the stress we carry in our bodies. Once we learn to identify what we're feeling, we're better able to release the stress we might be experiencing both physically and mentally.

Ideas for this activity were contributed by:

Bailey Vaez, Founder of Proactive Movement – Simple at Work Wellness Program; Katie Cino, Health Promoter, Niagara Public Health.

Feet on the floor, close your eyes and listen

How to take this break

  1. Move away from your desk.
  2. Plant your feet firmly on the ground or, alternatively, place your hands gently on your legs and close your eyes.
  3. Tune in exclusively to the feeling of how your feet or hands touch the surface, noting two or three other things you can feel.
  4. Switch your focus to the most obvious sound in the room.
  5. Note other things you can hear. Now open your eyes and appreciate how quickly and easily you were able to calm your mind and relax your body.

Why this counts

Moving away from your desk can help ease painful tension in the body. Focusing on your other senses, such as hearing and touch, can be calming and a great way to refocus during a stressful or busy day.

Ideas for this activity were contributed by:

Teresa Scannell, Career & Work Life Consultant University of Toronto Organizational Development and Learning Centre; Jason Reid, Professional Speaker, Sick with Success.

Call a friend

How to take this break

Use your break time to reach out to someone you can count on to make you feel better by meeting for coffee, sending an email or making a phone call.

Why this counts

Talking to someone whose opinion you value may help you to see your situation from a more objective perspective. This can also help reduce your feelings of stress.

Ideas for this activity were contributed by:

JoAnne Ramos, Senior Account Manager, Shepell.fgi.

Get inspired by adding posters, art or pictures to your workplace

How to take this break

Collect and display images of a place you visited or dream about visiting someday, or a special person, memory, or an inspirational quote – whatever makes you feel good. You can also simply imagine them in your mind's eye. Focus on that moment for two to three minutes.

Why this counts

By taking a few moments from your day to appreciate the people, places and memories you cherish, you can allow yourself to escape to your very own paradise. This can help lower your stress and help you to focus on the task at hand after your break is completed.

Ideas for this activity were contributed by:

Jennifer Workman, Health Promoter, Region of Peel; Diane Miller-Bourdon, Occupational Health Consultant, The Canada Life Assurance Company; Gillian Gadsdon, Office Manager, Mary Ann Baynton & Associates; Jennifer Gray, Physical Activity Specialist, Hamilton Public Health; Joan Burton, Co-chair, Ontario Healthy Workplace Coalition.

Envision Your Best Possible Self

How to take this break

  1. Select a time period (3 months, 1 year, 5 years) Visualize your best possible self in a way that is pleasing and interesting to you. Imagine the details. Think about reaching your full potential, an important milestone, or realizing a future life dream. Reach high and be realistic.
  2. After you have a fairly clear image, write about the details. Writing it down helps create a logical structure for your future and can help you move from fuzziness to concrete, real possibilities.
  3. What character strengths do you observe in this image of yourself? What strengths will you need to use to make your vision a reality?
  4. Write down your specific goals and action plan that result from your Best Possible Self writings.

Why this counts

Boosts positive emotions, happiness, optimism, hope, coping skills, positive expectations about the future. Looking into the future is an important pathway to setting goals that are personally meaningful.

Don’t know your character strengths? Take the free assessment.

http://beingpukka.pro.viasurvey.org

Ideas for this activity were contributed by:

Contributed by Susan Kuz, BComm, CAPP, Positive Psychology Practitioner, http://beingpukka.com/