{{ propApi.closeIcon }}
Our industry
Our industry $vuetify.icons.faArrowRight
Housing industry insights Economics Data & forecasts Tailored research and analysis Advocacy & policy Advocacy Policy priorities Position statements Submissions News and inspiration Industry news Member alerts Media releases HOUSING Online
Business support
Business support $vuetify.icons.faArrowRight
Become an apprentice host Hire an apprentice Why host a HIA apprentice? Apprentice partner program Builder & manufacturer program Industry insurance Construction legal expenses insurance Construction works insurance Home warranty insurance Tradies & tool insurance Member perks Toyota vehicles The Good Guys Commercial Fuel savings See all Planning & safety solutions Building & planning services Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS) Solutions for your business Contracts Online Advertise jobs Trusted support & guidance Contracts & compliance support Industrial relations
Resources & advice
Resources & advice $vuetify.icons.faArrowRight
Building it right Building codes Australian standards Getting it right on site See all Building materials & products Concrete, bricks & walls Getting products approved Use the right products for the job See all Managing your business Dealing with contracts Handling disputes Managing your employees See all Managing your safety Safety rules Working with silica See all Building your business Growing your business Maintaining your business See all Other subjects Getting approval to build Sustainable homes See all
Careers & learning
Careers & learning $vuetify.icons.faArrowRight
A rewarding career Become an apprentice Apprenticeships on offer Frequently asked questions Study with us Find a course to suit you Qualification courses Learning on demand A job in the industry Get your builder's licence Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Find jobs
HIA community
HIA community $vuetify.icons.faArrowRight
Join HIA Sign me up How do I become a member? What's in it for me? Mates rates Get involved Become an award judge Join a committee Partner with us Our initiatives HIA Building Women GreenSmart Kitchen, bathroom and design hub Get to know us Our members Our people Our partners Support for you Charitable Foundation Mental health program
Awards & events
Awards & events $vuetify.icons.faArrowRight
Awards Awards program People & Business Awards GreenSmart Australian Housing Awards Awards winners Regional Award winners Australian Housing Award winners 2024 Australian Home of the Year Enter online Industry events Events in the next month Economic outlook National Conference Events calendar
HIA shop
HIA shop $vuetify.icons.faArrowRight
Most popular products National Construction Code Vol 1 & 2 Waterproofing wet areas AS 3740:2021 HIA Guide to Waterproofing HIA Guide to NCC Livable Housing Provisions Top categories Building codes & standards Contracts & documents Guides & manuals Safety products Signage For your business Contracts Online Digital Australian Standards Digital Resource Library Forecasts & data
About Contact Newsroom
$vuetify.icons.faMapMarker Set my location Use the field below to update your location
Change location
{{propApi.text}} {{region}} Change location
{{propApi.successMessage}} {{region}} Change location

$vuetify.icons.faPhone1300 650 620

Take a break

Take a break

{{ tag.label }} {{ tag.label }} $vuetify.icons.faTimes
Need a holiday? Maybe the break you really need is more than just physical. Housing talks to Dr Steve Woodbury about how to respite right.

Anne-Maree Brown

General Manager of Content

The United Nations, under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, stipulates in Article 24 ‘Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay’.

And there is some science to why this is so important. A World Health Organisation (WHO) study found that 745,000 people died in 2016 from heart disease and stroke due to long hours. For people (and raise your hand if this is you) who work 55 or more hours per week, they had a 35 per cent higher risk of stroke and 17 per cent higher risk of dying from heart disease. That is powerful data.

But let’s be honest, as a business owner there are always reasons to put off a holiday. And when you do take a break, it doesn’t offer you the recharge you need. But how can we learn to take holidays that truly benefit us?

‘When you take a break, the anticipation brings you excitement’
Dr Stephen Woodbury is the founder and Director of MindZen Method

Calm your inner animal

According to founder and Director of MindZen Method, Dr Stephen Woodbury (or Dr Steve as he’s often called), your health is at risk without the right emotional foundations just like a house without sound foundations is at risk of collapsing. ‘Builders, like most people, often feel like they are on a treadmill, constantly running faster and faster, without getting anywhere,’ he says. ‘This is why taking a break is important because it helps you step back and get the bigger picture.’

However, he says holidays work only if you are aware of what your unconscious animal instincts are processing all of the time. ‘We are still, on many levels, using our “ancient brains”,’ Dr Steve explains. ‘The ancient brain is designed to attack or run away, this is the fight or flight response, while our modern brain has social conventions that encourage us to repress our emotions. This is not how we are designed to deal with stress.’

He adds that we are always on the alert for danger to be able to survive, just like in a pre-modern world: ‘If you aren’t aware that your brain is on hyper alert, holidays can be just as exhausting as staying at home, if not more so.’

So, what do we need to know about our animal brain when taking a well needed break?

‘When you decide to take a break, the anticipation brings you excitement and you are craving a step away from your everyday stresses,’ Dr Steve says. ‘But there are always challenges, delays, unexpected issues or things that disappoint. That is just our innate animal mind in overdrive.’

The result is our anxious mind takes a while to settle down to enjoy the holiday, and so we continue to feel restless. Then, before you know it, we are back home again. ‘There is so much pressure on this one single holiday event that we feel we are cheated if it isn’t perfect. But if you know your animal mind is just doing what it has been designed to do to keep you safe in the wilderness, it might help to understand and excuse why holidays are not always what we need them to be.’

The samurai’s strength came from being masters of Zen meditation
‘It doesn’t matter how old we get; we are all still a toddler on the inside’

Find your no-mind

How do we quiet the anxious animal inside? Dr Steve says it’s a case of going into a break knowing you need to take some personal agency over your conscious and non-conscious mind too.

Sounds confusing? Well, it’s actually fairly simple. He explains: ‘Our brains are geared on two levels. Cognitively, we are constantly thinking, reasoning, remembering and planning. Meanwhile, under this “thinking” brain activity, is the non-cognitive mind activity. This is your mood, personality and your attitudes which all affect how we communicate and work in the world.’

But they are both parts of ‘your’ mind and knowing you have a sense of control can make all the difference. Because the unconscious mind works faster than the conscious, you tend to have all of the ‘feelings’ before you have all of the ‘thinking’. If you aren’t aware how to switch off, both sides will struggle to truly relax and the conflict between your ancient and modern brains actually increases stress and anxiety.

For Dr Steve, this understanding came from his own personal experience, not theory. After a series of injuries, accidents and extreme pain in his youth caused him permanent damage, he went on a journey of researching pain management that led to a doctorate and PhD.

What he found was a connection to the teaching of Japanese samurai. While most westerners are familiar with their 13th century glory days of intimidating swordcraft and military skill, their learning and practices still exist. What might surprise some is that the samurai’s strength came from being masters of Zen meditation. The purpose of this was to open up their subconscious instincts and draw them into a state of ‘mushin’ or no-mind.

‘You do need to digitally detox at certain times to train your no-mind brain’
You might find your ‘flow’ doing activities such as swimming, painting or listening to music

‘For many in the building industry, I suspect they most likely had a natural affinity to the combination of mind and movement,’ Dr Steve says. ‘Many may have started their career being interested in the “making” part of building. That in itself is a creative craft that has an aspect known
as “flow”.’

He explains that without even realising it, builders and tradespeople may have tapped into their ‘Zen or no-mind’ by experiencing the calm that comes from moulding a piece of timber or repetitive physical tasks that can allow the conscious thinking part of the brain to calm for a time.

‘If you think back to those actions, it most likely had that feeling of “flow”, a natural rhythm, which affected your breathing. That is where your mind is peaceful. The samurai were trained in art as well as warfare to find that harmony. For us today, we might find it in activities, such as swimming, painting, listening to music or being outside. You might also find it making or building something and being on a holiday.’

If you have moved from being on the tools to being the boss, there is most likely a part of your mind that needs to find another way to find no-mind. The conundrum though is once you are ‘thinking’ your flow state is interrupted.

Finding that feeling doesn’t just help you to discover more relaxation on holidays, but you can use that no-mind state when you need it, for example, after work, first thing in the morning or on weekends. ‘You do need to digitally detox at certain times to train your no-mind brain. Leave your phone at home if you take the dog for a walk and ignore it if you are in the car on the way home. Over time your health, your mindset and your loved ones will benefit.’

It’s child’s play

Some researchers have found that the whole discovery of flow can be attributed to our inner child and our need to play.

‘It doesn’t matter how old we get; we are all still a toddler on the inside,’ Dr Steve says, adding that learning often comes from play, which can also put us in a positive mood. ‘That is why any holiday that involves new discoveries, new sensations, sights and sounds are so important.’

In that exploration state you are more likely to be physically active, with your mind motivated to keep on learning. You may even engage in conversations you wouldn’t have at home.

But balancing activity with rest and recovery is key: ‘All the best sportsmen need to have an “off-season”. To be the best in your peak, you need to rest.’

So, to get the most out of down time, maybe try finding at least one of these three things: your inner animal, your inner child or maybe a bit of your own inner Mr Miyagi. Remember to wax-on, wax off before you take off.

Email Steve directly at steve@mindzengroup.com or visit MindZen Group.

Balancing activity with rest and recovery is key. To be the best in your peak, you need to rest.
'I suspect they most likely had a natural affinity to the combination of mind and movement’

First published on 24 March 2022.

You might also like:

Wellbeing Safety Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Better living
Water, water everywhere
When working onsite, it’s essential to keep your fluids up but there’s more to hydration than just drinking the usual eight glasses a day. Nutrition and health experts explain how to keep your hard-working team well-quenched.
Mar 24
3 mins
Read full article $vuetify.icons.faArrowRight
Awards Team building Inspiration Better living
North of the sun
Queensland’s tropical north is rich in rainforests, reefs, relaxation and robust adventure. For HIA members enjoying the 2024 National Conference in Cairns, this region is a slice of paradise.
Mar 24
6 min
Read full article $vuetify.icons.faArrowRight
Better living Inspiration Mental health Wellbeing
Redefining life
Beyond Blue speaker and ex corporate athlete Peta Sitcheff has gone from being burnt-out to firing on all cylinders.
Feb 24
5 min
Read full article $vuetify.icons.faArrowRight
Wellbeing Inspiration Mental health Better living
Feel better, or be better
When work stress started to turn into something more sinister, silence and denial nearly cost Tim Lacey everything. Today, he’s passionate about helping other men to speak up and get help when needed.
Feb 24
6 min
Read full article $vuetify.icons.faArrowRight
Wellbeing Inspiration Mental health Better living
In the shadow of the Impossible Man
For Beyond Blue ambassador Craig Killian, a lifetime of trying to conform to unrealistic male standards eventually resulted in a mental health crisis. He chats to Housing about living with the ‘Impossible Man’ and learning how to ...
Feb 24
4 mins
Read full article $vuetify.icons.faArrowRight
Mental health Wellbeing Silica Better living
Approaching mental health
Mental health is an issue across the construction workforce, but apprentices are particularly vulnerable. A HIA/Beyond Blue webinar explores how we can support the future of our industry.
Nov 23
4 mins
Read full article $vuetify.icons.faArrowRight
Wellbeing Inspiration Mental health Residential Better living
Lessons well learnt
From a rocky start, Greg Wells has carved out an incredibly successful career. Here, he shares his highs and lows and why he wants to give young people a chance to experience the rewards the building industry can offer.
Aug 23
5 min
Read full article $vuetify.icons.faArrowRight
Wellbeing Mental health Financial planning Better living
Cents and sensibility
Some say money isn’t everything but it’s a big something. It’s a burden that can cause insurmountable stress. Housing explores money, its impact on mental health and what you can do to stay healthy.
Jun 23
5 min
Read full article $vuetify.icons.faArrowRight
Wellbeing Mental health Working hours Better living
Take a break
Need a holiday? Maybe the break you really need is more than just physical. Housing talks to Dr Steve Woodbury about how to respite right.
Mar 23
4 min
Read full article $vuetify.icons.faArrowRight
Inspiration Wellbeing Communication Better living
Clear skies ahead
After spending more than 25 years coping with trauma and anxiety, Bobby Fitzsimmons found his calling – being a Beyond Blue ambassador and speaker to help others needing guidance.
Mar 23
6 min
Read full article $vuetify.icons.faArrowRight
Wellbeing Owner-builder Awards Better living
Fighting spirit
When owner-builder David Butler felt under pressure, he turned to alcohol for escape. As soon as it started costing him more than money, he knew he had a problem.
Jan 23
9 min
Read full article $vuetify.icons.faArrowRight
Mental health Wellbeing Inspiration Better living
Coaching you back on track
A new program free for small business owners provides confidential coaching support delivered by Richmond Fellowship Queensland on behalf of Beyond Blue.
Dec 22
7 min
Read full article $vuetify.icons.faArrowRight