This Is What a “Joybreak” Is and How You Can Take One

published Aug 11, 2022
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After a day brimming with long Zoom calls, Slack back-and-forths, stressful emails, and other busy work-from-home tasks, for some reason, my go-to response to finally finishing my work is… to do other productive tasks around the house. Laundry. Dishes. Pulling weeds. Getting groceries.

But lately, like many people, I’ve been starting to feel the effects of burnout creeping in. So as tempting as cleaning out the leftovers in the fridge or picking up dog poop in the yard might be, I’m making a more concerted effort to do something that’s just for me, a little break in the monotony to spark some joy, like listening to a podcast or reading a chapter of a book.

To that same end, I’m officially adding “joybreak” to my 2022 dictionary. As the name suggests, a joybreak is any little self-care moment you take for yourself throughout the day in your home, from a quick yoga flow to taking a bath — and everything in between. 

Even if they’re short, these intentional self-care breaks are important because they help nourish your mental, physical, and spiritual health and well-being. 

“When one of those is missing, it can become like a stool with a missing leg and could topple over, taking the unsuspecting person down with them,” says Thuan Nguyen, a certified yoga and reiki teacher who also serves as wellness manager for Mountainside Treatment Center in Canaan, Connecticut. “The most balanced people I know take time out for themselves and then connect with others.”

At first, you may feel selfish or guilty for taking a joybreak moment, especially if you’ve got little ones at home or you’re taking care of an elderly relative. But these pauses can actually help make you a better parent, coworker, partner, and friend, says Helene D’Jay, executive director of young adult services at Newport Healthcare in Connecticut.

“Remember the airplane instruction that says parents should put on their oxygen masks before their child’s?” D’Jay says. “Especially if you are tasked with caring for someone, if you don’t take care of yourself, you will not have the ability to help them. Self-care allows you to be that best version of yourself. It’s a necessity that enables us to function optimally.”

If you easily get trapped in productivity spirals, like I often do, it can be challenging to give yourself permission to take a joybreak. And overwhelming. Where do you even begin when you’re so used to making every waking moment a task to check off on the to-do list?

Like any new undertaking, start small. Instead of setting a big, hard-to-achieve goal for yourself, like working out seven days a week, go for something more achievable for an easy win.

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“Start by adding in something every day,” says Lisa Westerson, a licensed clinical social worker and director of residential services at Mountainside Treatment Center. “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.”

If you’re in need of some inspiration for your next joybreak, consider the below ideas from Josephine Atluri, a mindfulness and meditation coach.

“Some are mindful while others are just pure fun,” she says. “It’s essential to have a list of various self-care options that you can turn to for inspiration and suggestion so that you can really tailor your solution to your situation and mood.” 

  • Deep breathing exercises. Atluri suggests a few rounds of breathing in for four seconds, holding your breath for five, and exhaling for six.
  • Journaling. Jot down how you’re feeling, what’s happening in your life, and any observation that pops to mind.
  • Meditating. Go to a distraction-free space in your home (or yard!) and focus on your breathing.
  • Reading. Preferably something that won’t stress you out, like the news.
  • Writing out gratitudes. Spend a few minutes calling to mind who and what you’re thankful for in that moment.
  • Exercising. Pause for yoga, a quick stretch, a virtual workout, or even a short walk.
  • Spa treatment. Indulge by doing a face mask, taking a luxuriously long shower, soaking in the tub, or otherwise pampering yourself.