Over the past few months, I've become somewhat obsessed with Scandinavian culture. While I was home over winter break, I stumbled upon a book in our library titled Lagom: The Swedish Art of Balanced Living by Linnea Dunne. While flipping through the pages, I learned a great deal about Swedish lifestyle and Sweden's minimalistic mentality when it comes to almost everything.

Lagom is roughly defined as "not too much, not too little" and is about striking balanced moderation in one's life. This concept permeates everywhere in Sweden's culture, from the functionality of one's wardrobe to the minimalism of a home's interior design.

I was especially inspired by Sweden's cultural norms that emphasize finding resilience, spending time in nature, and connecting with others. But one practice that especially stood out to me was the concept of fika –  a daily break for Swedes to sip on a warm drink, enjoy a small treat, and decompress.

The beauty of fika is that it's extremely versatile. You can do it at work, you can do it at home, you can spend it with people, you can spend it alone. The most important part is that it's an opportunity to pause. Studies show that taking breaks throughout your work day boost productivity while minimizing fatigue and unnecessary time spent being distracted (i.e. incessantly checking your email, like me). Because Sweden recognizes this, most Swedish companies have a mandatory fika for all employees.

For the rest of us non-Swedes, a fika may be less achievable if you work long hours at a company that doesn't provide opportunities to grab a coffee and unwind for 10-30 minutes.

However, many of us now work remotely due to COVID-19, and because of that, fikas are a lot more easy to do. And given the high levels of anxiety resulting from the pandemic, a daily fika practice is more important than ever.

How to Have a Fika

1. Sip on your favorite drink

Most Swedes enjoy a cup of coffee, but if you're not a coffee person, instead have a tea, soda, or one of your other favorite drinks (non-alcoholic, of course – that's for another time!).

In the days before the pandemic, many enjoyed their fikas inside a coffee shop. But until COVID-19 is a thing of the past, consider making a drink at home or picking up a coffee from your favorite cafe and enjoying it outside.

2. Eat a pastry

If you're feeling hungry and need a little pick-me-up in the afternoon, bring a snack! Popular treats among Swedes are kanelbullar (cinnamon buns) and biscuits. While Swedes love pastries, they normally enjoy them in small portions. So, consider eating smaller treats or cutting your pastries in half or quarters (and enjoy the rest of your treat during your next fika!)

3. If you want company, bring a friend

Fikas are often enjoyed with other people. So, if you have roommates or work colleagues with similar schedules, plan a fika to simply chat and catch up with one another. Fikas can also be enjoyed alone, so if you need some me-time or live/work alone, no need to fret! Grab your coffee, grab your treat, and sit back and relax.

4. Turn your phone on silent

Or better yet, don't bring your phone at all! This is an opportunity for you to decompress from your work-day. It's not a break if you're checking your email or doomscrolling on Instagram. Think simplicity – enjoy the warmth of your drink, the taste of your pastry, and the company you're sharing (if you're enjoying your fika with someone else).

So, whether you're a student or worker, I encourage you to incorporate a fika into your day. Consider it an opportunity for self-care – a digital detox from the fast-paced routine of our daily lives. Leave the computer and phone behind, and make a little extra space for some lagom.