There’s no denying work can be stressful. Whether it’s deadlines, presentations or the nature of the job (hello, ER doctor), there comes a time when you absolutely need a break. It’s long been advised to simply take a step back when you feel overwhelmed, but new research from scientists at the University of Michigan says otherwise.
Instead of buffering negative energy by doing nothing, the experts found that doing something, like actively learning, actually combats stress more effectively. After studying employees in their real time work environment, they found the biggest differences lie between those who are active versus passive.
Actively learning something that interests you, whether pertaining to work or otherwise, is a resource-builder for your internal capacity, says Psychology Today. Where learning is building and moving forward, relaxing neither builds nor destroys, leaving you to face the same stress you left at the workplace.
Aside from buffering stress, the research proved learning something helped with fighting off negative emotions like anxiety, frustration or disappointment. On the other hand, people who just relaxed, didn’t feel any difference in their emotions. By staring at Instagram, you’re more likely to harbor those feelings than move past them.
One way the study suggests calming down is by replacing your stress with a learning activity. This means when you feel yourself getting bogged down, take five minutes to read an article about something else in your work-field or what someone mentioned at the water cooler. It’ll keep your mind active, and is definitely more helpful than watching cat videos on Facebook.
But if you need a serious break like lunch or a quick walk, they advise taking it with someone. You’ll have the chance to ask them how they work and what methods they use to keep stress at bay. It’s also a good way to get to know someone, make connections and learn new ways to do your job.
It’s easy to feel like all you want to do is absolutely nothing. And if you’ve found that taking a mindless walk, scrolling through social media helps, keep doing it. But for me, I know when I start to get stressed and take a mindless break, coming back to work is so much harder; I just want to stay on Instagram and I come back feeling lethargic. Looks like it’s time to change my ways, and de-stress by learning. Who’s with me?