Given all of the talk these days about work/life balance, it seems pretty logical to make good use of our lunch breaks during the day. However for many of us, this proves to be difficult for multiple reasons. No matter what kind of work you do if these tips don’t apply to your workplace, they may be relevant to other parts of your life. You may see big benefits in creating some small yet significant changes to the shape of your day.
Many of us tend to shy away from taking a break during the work day, but a CNN online article quotes Beverly Beuermann-King, a stress and wellness expert from Little Britain, Ontario, Canada, as saying “How we handle our breaks — especially lunch — has a huge impact on how we feel for the rest of the day. It is about using our energy wisely and replenishing that energy so that we have a rhythm to life… We know our bodies need down time in the middle of stressful situations to recoup energy and be able to refocus.” You can read the full article here.
So now the question becomes about how we can actually instill healthy habits into our day, understanding that taking care of ourselves while at work is just as important as taking care of ourselves outside of work. We may think that we’re dedicated employees because we eat lunch at our desk or don’t eat lunch at all, but if anything, it may actually decrease productivity.
A Forbes Magazine article focuses on fourteen things that you can try every day to maximize your lunch break; let’s just highlight a few here and hope that it gives you some oomph to get through your work day with more ingenuity and productivity! For more of the tips, please see the full Forbes article here.
1) Plan ahead: Think about what you want your afternoon to look like after lunchtime. If you schedule a conference call or a meeting directly afterwards, you may find yourself stressed to get back to the office, or working through lunch to prepare. You want to try and make sure that your lunch hour is as refreshing as possible and schedule meetings and calls accordingly.
2) Try and leave the office or whatever environment you work in when you can for a set period of time during the day. More and more studies are showing that taking a walk and being out in nature (if even for a few minutes), or even doing errands to get some fresh air can increase your mood and help you to feel more productive throughout the afternoon (plus it’s always a bonus to get tasks done that you can’t do before or after work). But if you are going to be hitting up the grocery store or post office, try not to jam too many tasks into one day, or you’ll just be trading one kind of stress for another!
3) Change things up. If you always eat at the same sandwich shop or always sit with the same colleagues during your lunch break, try mixing things up one day. Go for a walk in a new neighborhood, try a new lunch spot, or focus on a hobby that rejuvenates and/or calms you (meditation, knitting, writing, a few yoga stretches, etc.). You may be surprised at just how much benefit there is to getting a change of scenery and even integrating some new healthy habits into your daily routine. Most likely you’ll clear your mind and feel better prepared to dig into the rest of your workday.
4) Don’t forget to actually eat during your lunch break! If you don’t fuel yourself during the day, your energy will burn out and you’ll crash and not be your best by late afternoon. You may think that you’re doing the best thing for your job/career by pushing through and not taking a breather, but if you don’t feel well by the end of the day, then ultimately you haven’t gained anything. Focus on having a healthy lunch and see how much of a difference that can make in the shape of your day.
5) Avoid screens! Most of us stare at computer screens all day long, so try to unplug during this time off. If you want to do some online shopping or email a friend, at least get up from your desk so that your body recognizes this as a real break.
6) Have a plan in place for the times that you leave your office or workplace. Let people know who the contact is while you’re out, and how they can contact you if absolutely necessary; this in turn may help you to decrease obsessively checking your email or phone while you’re away and be able to better enjoy that break.