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Healthy brain breaks for the workplace

1 November 2020

Given the year we’ve had, it’s not surprising that the mental health and wellbeing of Australians appears low. According to a recent national survey by Smiling Mind, many are experiencing mental health challenges this year.

Smiling Mind, a non-profit meditation program developed by psychologists and educators, recently released their annual State of Mind Survey which looks at the mental health and wellbeing of Australian adults.

The survey returned an average wellbeing score of 6.2% out of a maximum of 10, with 54.6% of respondents attributing COVID19 to having a moderate to significant detrimental impact on their mental health and wellbeing.

Mental wellbeing in the workplace during COVID19

Programmed’s October Mental Health report has seen a similar trend, with Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) usage up this quarter. More employees have turned to our EAP for counselling or professional guidance, with 106 new cases, an increase of 14 from last quarter, and 123 active cases, an increase of 12.

As well as having access to an EAP, there are several things employees can do to manage mental health and stress in the workplace and support their colleagues.

Smiling Mind’s seven healthy brain breaks

Smiling Mind’s seven healthy brain breaks aim to help us pause, take a breath and be proactive in looking after ourselves and others.


Release the build-up of excess energy that usually accompanies stress by moving. If you’ve been on the computer all day, don’t forget to go for a walk or run outside, do some stretching, yoga or put some music on and dance around the house for a song or two.


Fear and anxiety start to reduce when you slow your breathing down. Try stopping what you’re doing and taking three long, slow breaths in. Try imposing a rhythm, so that your out-breath becomes longer than your in-breath. Smiling Mind recommend trying a 4-2-6 rhythm, for example, breathe for 4 counts, hold your breath for 2 counts, and breathe out for 6 counts. If that doesn’t feel comfortable, they recommend trying a 3-1-4 rhythm.


Engage your senses by consciously connecting to what’s happening in the moment. Try splashing cold water on your face, taking a hot shower, cuddling your pet or even enjoying a cup of tea.


Getting a good night’s rest is important but can be hard when feeling anxious. If you’re having trouble, Smiling Mind recommend creating a pre-sleep routine by turning off news and screens at least an hour before going to bed. You might also like to try a meditation from the ‘Sleep’ program in the Smiling Mind App.


Social connection has been difficult during COVID-19 but staying connected to others is as important as ever. Luckily, we have so much technology at our fingertips which allows us to stay connected to our family, friends and colleagues. Try using a video during online meetings, listen and interact mindfully and pay attention to the people you’re engaging with.


Have a think about how you might help your colleagues during this difficult time. Contributing to the wellbeing of others helps shift our attention from ourselves onto what we can do for others. This helps us connect, gain a sense of agency, and also positively impacts on our own wellbeing.

Create healthy habits

Create healthy habits by practicing mindfulness. You can try something as simple as washing your hands mindfully and taking care not to touch your face.

Click here for additional resources

*This resource provides strategies designed to be used in a proactive way and are not designed to manage or treat significant emotional difficulties. If you need immediate help please make sure you speak with your health professional or contact lifeline on 131 114.

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