Tired Of Burnout? Try 'Joybreaks' To Shake Up The Workday

Rushing through the responsibilities of the day is a trap we can all fall into at times. One thing leads to another, and then the sun is setting before you've even had a chance to slow down — which we all know does not nourish the body, mind, or soul. Without little doses of play, our vibrancy withers. Even if you work from home, it may not come naturally to break up your day with small windows to do what you love, since it has been ingrained in us to be as productive as possible, but doing so is essential for your well-being and work-life balance.


Enter: joybreaks. A joybreak is exactly what it sounds like — taking a quick break from work, not to catch up on emails or hastily take out the trash, but to pick up the guitar, take out the watercolors, or read a fun article you had bookmarked. Joybreaks are here to lighten the load and bring a sense of balance to the day. Let's take a closer look at how to shake up the workday with joybreaks and how they help to curb burnout.

Let go of the guilt

When introducing joybreaks into your daily routine, some mental rewiring will be necessary. Chances are high that after years in the workforce and prioritizing productivity above all else, your intuition when it comes to nurturing joy is a bit injured. But it can certainly be rebuilt. Quiet the guilt that may arise when you break away from the Slack messages for five minutes to sit down at the piano to play. Joybreaks are system reboots, and it's more than okay to utilize them. "The most balanced people I know take time out for themselves and then connect with others," certified yoga and reiki teacher Thuan Nguyen told Apartment Therapy.


It's also important to avoid the pitfall of a joybreak feeling like another item on the to-do list. It's supposed to be a refreshing break, not another task that you'll stress about getting done. If that's ever starting to be the case, then it may be time to switch up your joybreak activities and find what truly sparks your enthusiasm.

Remember what brought you joy in childhood

Whatever it was in childhood that made time stand still for you — that's what we're after here. Maybe it was reading a mystery novel, coloring, exploring nature, throwing a baseball, or playing video games. It's quite tragic that we lose touch with the simple activities that once brought us such joy, but reconnecting with those hobbies can be fairly easy, and they're the perfect way to fill a few minutes during your short mental resets.


You're filling your cup by taking joybreaks, and that's what will allow you to show up as a more whole, present human in all your other pursuits throughout your workday. Meetings, pings, emails, zoom calls — it should all sit a little lighter in your mind. Stepping away from your desk to fully immerse yourself in a fun, uplifting, joyful hobby for even just a few minutes can drastically shift your mood and the trajectory of your day. Just as you'd feel refueled by doing what you love as a kid, you can still experience that same simple joy in your workday by engaging in those interests for a few minutes here and there.

Commit to several joybreaks daily

If you need a solid plan to jumpstart your joybreak habit, start by scheduling them. Set several alarms on your phone to go indulge in what brings you joy for a few minutes — then get up and do it. While it may be tempting to just take a breather with your phone, you should resist scrolling through social media during your joybreaks; a 2020 study in the Journal of Happiness Studies found you're more likely to come away with negative feelings such as boredom and dissatisfaction than add joy to your life from scrolling your feed. Also, make sure your joybreaks are not intertwined with bigger, looming goals — the essence of the joybreak is joy, which can be hard to muster if you've got a huge deadline hanging over your head.


But that doesn't mean your joybreaks need to be complicated or consistently postponed for another day. "Start by adding in something every day," Lisa Westerson, a licensed clinical social worker and director of residential services at Mountainside Treatment Center, told Apartment Therapy. "It doesn't need to be time-consuming, as long as you are engaged in taking a break from what you are doing. Try setting aside five minutes every afternoon to have a cup of tea, listen to music, or meditate." Even if your joybreaks look super low-key, you are still stepping away from your workspace and entering the flow of joy, peace, and relaxation. That is the ultimate win here.

Joybreak inspiration

Not sure what to do during a joybreak? Don't fret. It's more than okay to dabble until you find your "thing" and go from there. Getting outside in the fresh air is an obvious one, but don't underestimate its power to shift your energy. A quick walk around the block, tending to your garden for a few minutes, or simply enjoying a coffee in the sunlight are all great joybreaks. If you've noticed that your mind is frazzled and just can't slow down during the work day, stepping aside for a guided meditation twice a day can work wonders; choose a comfortable position, some noise-canceling earbuds, and let yourself be guided into a meditative state for several minutes.


If you find that a few minutes of artistic creation refuel you, then you could consider setting up a small corner in your workspace dedicated to your unique expression, fully supplied with tools. Even taking just a few minutes a day to break the mold and step into joy is the magic recipe for avoiding burnout.

Signs of burnout to look out for

Ideally, we want to integrate joybreaks into our workday before burnout hits, so it's important to monitor yourself for signs that it's creeping up on you. Lack of motivation, dread of starting the workday, consistent mental distraction, and an overwhelming negative attitude toward work are obviously all signals that some joy is needed throughout the day. You could also be feeling anxious, or maybe you're experiencing bouts of insomnia. Brain fog is another telltale sign of burnout, as is a disinterest in connecting with your loved ones after a long day. While some introverts may need to go into cocoon mode after a socially taxing workday, consistently turning down invites is typically an indicator of burnout.


Think of joybreaks as preventative care, ensuring your well-being throughout the workday. If burnout is left unaddressed, we may begin to cope in unhealthy ways. If you're particularly lethargic and turning toward alcohol, overeating, or drugs to self-soothe, then speaking with a mental health provider about burnout is recommended in addition to your joybreak efforts (via Mayo Clinic).