Taking regular and meaningful breaks from your work is important to staying alert and not burning out. However, a common excuse for not taking a break is that there’s simply no time in a busy schedule to take a truly refreshing breather. This causes you more stress and the cycle continues, making you less focused and less productive but feeling like you just can’t allow yourself a break.
The solution is to find simple and easy to access resources to give yourself quick but effective sessions to de-stress, whether at the office or wherever you do your work.
These are some of the best websites and mobile apps for doing just that, all of them free or very affordable. So, no more excuses. Start giving yourself healthy breaks to recharge and stop hitting a wall with your daily grind.
The name of this website says it all. Upon landing on its homepage, you’ll be asked to choose a length of time, whether you want music, and if you’d prefer a soothing voice-over to guide you on your journey to relaxation. Whether you have two minutes or 10, this site will help you find inner peace in no time.
There’s something uniquely soothing about the sound of rain. As someone from a rainy city who is currently in southern California most of the year, I really enjoy having the ability to hear the pure sound of rain falling no matter where I am. If you also feel comforted by rain, bookmark this site and use it to have a little moment of rainy zen at work when you need one.
Sound Drown (website)
For the most variety in experience customization, Soundrown definitely wins. This site has many sounds to choose from and, perhaps best of all, the ability to overlap them. So if you want to listen to birds chirping by a fountain, you can. If, for whatever reason, the sound of a train running through a crackling fire is your cup of tea, you can do that too. I especially like that you can change the volume of individual sounds, so that if the bird chirping is too prominent against that trickling fountain, you can soften it without turning down the entire soundscape’s volume. I have this one bookmarked as well. It’s a nice escape from your routine if you find some background noise relaxing.
This is the relaxation site for the non-stop fidgeters out there. Do Nothing for 2 Minutes gives you a serene background, a simple screen, and the serene sound of ocean waves along with text stating the same instructions as the site’s name. If you move your cursor before the 2 minute countdown is up, you “fail” and must start over again. This will force you to actually sit calmly and relax instead of drifting over to your email, or that one online shopping site you can’t stop looking at. I admittedly found it a bit challenging at first, but the challenge only creates more incentive to actually make the most out of those 2 minutes and truly relax.
Silk is “interactive generative art,” which means you get to make pretty glowy art with squiggles. Your mouse is your digital paintbrush and you have several settings to customize the color of your strokes (you can see in this screenshot I took that I have green and blue mixed together). Oh, and every line or blob you make is mirrored, and you have a few options for patterns from the simple two-fold all the way up to six symmetrical folds. It’s incredibly relaxing to move your cursor around and watch as brightly-colored waves and ribbons spill out into pretty patterns. It doesn’t require a lot of set up, so you can fit in a zen “drawing” break when you need to.
This app costs a couple of bucks, but that’s because its techniques are backed by research. Breathing Zone uses a “clinically proven therapeutic breathing exercise” shown to decrease heart rate and blood pressure. It’s so legit that it has been featured on several news outlets and, at least according to the site, even has legit doctors recommending it to patients. If you work in an environment that’s high-stress or you’ve got the co-worker from hell in the next cubicle, this app is probably worth the money.
Earthlapse (iPhone/iPad app), Free for limited time, reg. $0.99
Space is something else I find very peaceful, and, if you do too, Earthlapse is an amazing app to relieve stress. The app plays relaxing new age music while real time-lapse photography taken by NASA over the Earth rolls across your screen. The screenshot above is just one view; there are unobstructed views as well, and you have the choice of whether you want a clock and other info on the screen or nothing. When you’re having an especially nasty day at work, just look down on the Earth from miles above and revel in the insignificance of your troubles, if only for a moment.
Daily Yoga (iPhone/iPad and Android app), Free
Doing exercise and stretching is proven to help reduce stress by increasing endorphins, so a bit of light yoga is an excellent break from work and stress-reliever. If, like myself, you don’t know any yoga poses except Downward Facing Dog, Daily Yoga has instructions on how to do the poses, including proper breathing and video demonstrations. No need to attempt to twist yourself into a pretzel; just take a break from work to do some simple poses that will calm and recharge you. Easy peasy.
Fluid Monkey (iPhone/iPad and Android app), Free
Similar to Silk, Fluid Monkey involves making colorful, interactive images with your finger (rather than a mouse). You touch the screen to generate little particles of varying colors that swim around a simple and tranquil background, which you can then move around and play with. What I like about this app in particular is the level of customization to make the perfect soothing simulation for you. You get to customize color, thickness of the “fluid” that the particles move in, and particle friction. It’s sort of like having a very customizable lava lamp, or an incredibly abstract fish tank–two things you probably aren’t allowed to have on your physical work desk.
Dead Trigger 2 (available on iPhone, Android, and Facebook), Free
Like to relax less conventional ways? Me too. Due to my roommates having a TV with three game consoles set up, one of the ways I used to relax after stressful days at class last year was playing Left 4 Dead 2. There’s just something magical about unwinding by mowing down hoards of zombies with a virtual semi-automatic. The “2” similarity here is just a coincidence–the first Dead Trigger is still available and also awesome, but it makes more sense to list the most recent version first. Take out that stress and frustration with a jolly round of zombie killin’.
Featured photo credit: my new job at the call center/Domenico via flic.kr