“I’m too busy to pee!”
Increasingly, I have heard a stressed out colleague or patient tell me this. They are so busy that they can’t take a moment to go to the washroom.
Never mind coffee or lunch breaks, from the moment they arrive at their workplaces until they check out, these poor slaving souls don’t have the luxury of heeding the call of their own bodies.
Lunch – unless they skip it – is gulped down between phone calls, meetings and other tasks. They obviously don’t drink any more than their bladders can hold over their 8 to 12 hour stretch at work.
We all need regular breaks throughout the day. Our bodies and brains cycle through ultradian rhythms during our waking hours not unlike the dream and sleep cycles we experience at night.
Dr. Ernest Rossi, a well-known American psychologist and pioneer in clinical hypnosis noted that these ultradian cycles occur every 90 to 120 minutes, roughly coinciding to recess, nap time, coffee and lunch breaks in a well-ordered school or work schedule.
Our bodies and brains tell us when we need those breaks. If you’re in the middle of a meeting, you’ll get fidgety or sleepy. If you’re in mid-conversation, you’ll start zoning out. In the classroom, you’ll look out the window or start daydreaming. If you’re driving, you’ll be less attentive and more prone to accidents.
Because you’re not paying attention, you won’t notice it, but others will.
At these times, we need to take a break, but not necessarily a nap and certainly not a cocktail or a cigarette. Getting out of your chair and stretching, going for a walk or listening to your favourite music are good examples.
Heeding to our natural rhythms supports our mental, physical and emotional well-being. This makes us more efficient, more relaxed and more present at work and at school.
Unfortunately, some work conditions don’t support those breaks, but they should. If doctors don’t take short breaks throughout busy shifts in the clinic, ER or operating room, we will be less centred on each patient and more likely to make serious errors.
If you have to get to a bathroom badly, you won’t be as patient and kind with the customer in front of you, and preoccupied with your growing discomfort, you won’t be as attentive in your work.
So listen to your body and make a note of the signs that you need a break. As much as possible, take a few minutes to change your pace, and if you don’t have time to pee, do what you can to claim back what is rightfully yours – that fundamental human right to take a washroom break.