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Hitting the refresh button

Coming back to work after the Holidays can either fill you with excitement, or trepidation. In my first blog of 2023, I share ways of retaining the focus we regain after taking a break and why we should all regularly hit the refresh button.

 

refresh /rɪˈfreʃ/ verb

to give new energy and strength

 

This year I feel incredibly energised having taken a longer than usual break from work and spending lots of time with family and friends.


Yes, I may have checked the occasional email, but I didn't actively spend my time working. The value in stopping is so important because it gives our brains time to not only to relax but also to refresh.


So what do I mean by 'refresh'?


Well, think about your brain; it is your very own very complex computer, and you use it constantly in many varied and complex ways.


Now we have all had those times when our electronic devices stop working properly and what is the first thing we do? We turn them on and off again, we give them an update or we try a reboot. Yet when we think about ourselves, we are often not as quick to offer ourselves a refresh.


Sometimes, we just need a quick reboot, perhaps going for a run, or having a cup of tea or browsing social media, a short change can be an excellent pick-me-up during the day. It allows our brain to stop and change pace for a short while, which allows us to come back to our tasks with renewed focus.


Other times we need longer periods of rest to refresh our brains. Sleep is a hugely powerful and necessary way to rest. By turning off our conscious mind l, not only do we allow our brains to reset, but we allow the processing from the day to be packed into our subconscious and give our minds space.


Some people suggest that after waking they have their most profound ideas or 'eureka moments' and always have a pen and paper by the bedside to jot down those first thoughts and capture them before they fade.


Whilst regular breaks from work during the day and good sleep patterns will undoubtedly improve our ability to refresh and refocus, this can only do so much before we need a longer more sustained break from the high pressure, intellectual work in academia. This requires us to pause for a proper update to our system.


Updates take time, ask anyone who has watched the update bar go across their computer screen or phone! But updates are necessary or you start to see glitches and the slowing down of your devices system, and eventually it may stop working altogether.


We need to think of our brains and body's in the same way and consider that a proper holiday away from work allows us that time to 'update'. The time away from our daily work gives our brain time to breathe, to download and to reset the important pathways we will need when we refocus after being away.


It also allows us to spend a little time reflecting and re-evaluating our practices and perhaps thinking about how we might want our working day to look where we return.


This time of year is traditionally a time of refreshing and renewing as the calendar brings in the New Year, a time of resolutions.


I always have too many, and if I'm honest, I'm not really very good at sticking to them. However, this year a have one resolution I am determined to maintain and that is to remember this feeling of energy and enthusiasm post a proper break.


By embracing my own update and switching off, I feel genuinely refreshed and both ready and excited about the term ahead, in a way I never do after a short break or one where I interweave work and rest.


So the resolution is a simple three step mantra to embrace the power of allowing my brain to refresh:

  • Step 1: reboot - break up the working day with regular pauses through downtime and exercise

  • Step 2: switch off - prioritising the need to stop with meditation practice and regular sleep patterns

  • Step 3: make time for 'updates' - book regular periods away from work and block these completely from work distractions


Let's hope this can be a year of renewed energy, and positivity through acknowledging and prioritising rest, relaxation and time to refresh as an integral part of being successful in our work. Happy New Year!


5 top tips for ways to refresh


This blog was written by Dr Sarah Allsop the author and creator of thegratefulacademic.com read more about her journey here and connect on twitter @Gr8fulAcademic








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