It's summer, and you can barely concentrate on the towers of files on your desk. From your office window, you catch glimpses of couples picnicking on the grass—but the closest you've been to the great outdoors is nature-inspired screen savers. Four words: You need a break. Four more: You deserve a break.
"The 'strong Black woman/super-woman' role has influenced African-American women's experiences and may contribute to stress-related health disparities like lupus, obesity and untreated depression," explains Cheryl Woods Giscombé, Ph.D., a health psychologist and an associate professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. You may not be able to steal away to the Cayman Islands, but you can take a moment or two to bask in the sun, no matter how tight your schedule.
Got 20 minutes?
Strapping on some sneakers for a brisk walk can work wonders for your energy, clarity and spirit—and keep you from snapping at that girl in the next cubicle who pops her gum. "Take time each day to recharge with regular de-stressing routines or meditation exercises," advises Giscombé.
Got one hour?
If your besties are far away, meet up virtually. Nab a prime spot at your favorite cityscape, bring your laptop and wireless router card, and then link up for free on Skype or ooVoo during lunch. "Iron sharpens iron," explains mental health therapist Robin May. "Connecting with women who are on the move will remind you of how special you are. Girl power!"
Got two hours?
Cities everywhere host events similar to Jazz, Blues & Beyond Tuesday Concerts at Chicago Cultural Center's Randolph Café, giving you a chance to soak in summery weather and free entertainment. Taking a breather lessens the chance of burnout. "Women are always trying to prove ourselves at work, grinding it out all day," warns career coach Vicki Irvin. "Keeping up that routine can cause resentment. Relaxing, especially in a natural outdoor environment, helps to bring clarity around career goals."
Got half a day?
Be the company heroine by organizing a field day or Dave & Buster's get-together that taps into all the games and activities you loved as a child. "Engaging in childlike behavior is important because that's when many of us were the most creative," says May. "If you really want to advance in your career, you must have downtime so that your creative juices flow."
Got a full day?
Take up a new craft or sport, or travel to a nearby city. Spend the day at an amusement park, go antiquing, or sample a new eatery. Rolling solo you can have a blast! Go to a comedy club, or if you can't make it out of your pj's, round up a few DVDs like The Original Kings & Queens of Comedy Laugh Pack. The laughs are just as good from the comfort of your couch.