The startling fact is we are so busy day-to-day that we are more and more frequently working through our lunch breaks to get on top of things. A recent survey on Health in the Workplace found that 18% of Irish workers do not leave their desks at lunchtime, while 36% go out to get lunch but return to their desk to eat it.
In this frantic world of constant connection, there is no denying it is not always easy to take a break. But from a health, well-being, productivity and energy level it is not just necessary, it is vital.
Some of the most successful people in the world, including Arianna Huffington are insistent upon taking lunch. Not to mention Michelle Obama spent so much of her time, as First Lady, promoting healthy lunches for school children. She argued that a good lunch time can boost energy, refuel, re-energise and refocus.
First off take your lunch
Just think for a second. Are you frequently hunched over your desk eating salad, slurping soup, drinking coffee or treating yourself to a bar? Are you working to get something finished, meet a deadline or to keep on top of things? Or are you surfing the web randomly for something to wear at the weekend, for a new job or catching up on the latest news? Or worse still, do you work through lunch without stopping to eat at all? What are you doing during your lunch?
If you don’t take lunch, your first step is to start. Hard as it may be, you need to do it. Begin small. Start with 15 minutes away from your desk and build it by 5 minutes extra every day until you are taking your 60-minute break.
Leave your desk
Recent research shows that sitting for long periods of time without moving is potentially as bad for your health as smoking. So when you get your lunch break, make a conscious decision to get up and move. Walk to the shop, make a call while moving around or even walk up and down the stairs a few times. Ask a colleague to buddy up and set a reminder on your phone to make sure that you get up and move.
Lunch with colleagues
Grab lunch with your friends. This is your chance to spend time chatting with colleagues. Make lunch a social occasion, a time to chat, to find out what is going on with others and to build relationships with those around you. Turn on the radio, switch the channel or take turns creating a weekly lunchtime playlist. Shift the focus from work to fun for lunch. Soon you won’t know how you did without your break.
Avoid the post lunch food coma by eating the right type of food. The best way to avoid the post lunch slump is to eat at the start of your break. Stick to small amounts of food including vegetables, carbs and some meat. If you can, include some sweet potato, brown rice or quinoa in your lunch. Have a square of dark chocolate and a coffee. Remember it is possible to be nice to yourself while also eating well. Once you are finished eating it’s time to get outside.
Fresh air and some time out of the office and away from the desk does wonders for you. A brisk walk can boost your mood and clear your mind. This makes it more likely you will get on top of your work when you get back to your desk.
If you have time and it’s possible, commit to an exercise class, take a brisk walk, go for a run or take a quick cycle. I know that sweaty, full-on exercise is not ideal with a full face of make-up so keep it simple. Your focus here is to boost your heart rate. The resulting endorphin rush sharpens the mind providing you with the boost you need to see the rest of the day through in a productive, creative and energetic manner.
Listen to Music
Listening to music is a great way to distract, relax and reduce stress levels. Maybe put on a playlist of your favourite songs, a podcast of the morning show you missed or some music that you like to relax to. Listening to music is a form of mental distraction that is proven to reduce muscle tensions and decrease stress levels.
Pick a day, once per month, and make it your ‘build a connection’ lunch. Instead of sending an email, making a call or sending a message, catch up with a friend or colleague from a previous job or somebody you haven’t seen for a while. Technology is great but there’s nothing better than taking the time to connect in person and have a face-to-face chat. Not alone are you building your relationships you are also networking in a really informal, friendly and engaging way.
By Sinead Brady