Truth be told, most of us don't take a proper break at lunch. Survey after survey, and research after research, have shown that most of us work through lunch, and if we do eat, it's generally something fast, convenient, and hunched over at our desk.
So, basically, the worst thing we can do.
We don't take an actual break from work, leading to mental exhaustion in the afternoon. We eat fast or processed food loaded with preservatives, with makes us feel bloated, sluggish, and heavy in the afternoon. We don't stand up, stretch, and move around - even if only a little bit - resulting in low energy and sore muscles and bodies. It need not be that way. A lunch hour should be used to gear up and prepare for the afternoon push.
1. Go Outside
As a society, we live increasingly indoor lives. Artificial lighting, staring at screens all day, sometimes without the benefit of even having a window to at least see outside.
But you can "fix" this. Studies show that a quick walk, or eating your lunch picnic-style, does wonders for us. It works much better if you can get yourself to some sort of green space, like a nearby park. Green all the way, baby!
Some psychologists have even identified something they call "Nature Deficiency Syndrome", which is basically a slew of negative side effects resulting from our spending less and less time outside in nature. Suffice to say...it's a bad thing. Do yourself a favour and get outside every day. As an added bonus, it ensures that you're getting away from your desk, and taking an actual break from work, which are both incredibly important, too.
2. Do Something Physical
We all know we spend too much of our day doing little, if any, physical activity. Too many of us sit at a desk for 8-10 hours each day. Combat the sedentary lifestyle by exercising during your lunch hour. If you are lucky enough to have a health club in your building or nearby, get a membership and put in 30 minutes. If there's nothing within a reasonable distance, go for a 20-30 minute run (preferably in a green space). If you can’t (or won’t) do that, at least put in a brisk walk. Get your heart pumping and breath in some fresh air.
Exercise is a wonder "drug". Aside from the obvious benefit to your overall health, exercise can - somewhat paradoxically - give you additional energy in the afternoon. What's not to like?
3. STOP Working, Dagnabit!
This one seems straightforward, and it is, but we all-too-often don't do it. During your lunch break, stop working. Leave your desk. Stand up. If you can't follow the rest of the advice here (go outside, exercise), at least follow this one.
Your brain needs a chance to stop working so hard. No one can concentrate effectively all day. You need some mental downtime. Ideally you should be taking a short break every 25-30 minutes throughout the day (hence the popularity of the Pomodoro technique), but at a minimum, don't work over lunch. Leave your desk. Go to the break room if one exists. Socialize. Just. Don't. Work.
4. Eat Better Food
Processed food won't cut it, and even worse is fast food or takeout. You need to give your body the right kind of fuel to get through the afternoon dip. You wouldn't put diesel in your car, right? So why would you intentionally put the wrong fuel into something as important as your body? Fast and convenient food, heavy on fat and sugar, will leave you feeling bloated, sluggish, and likely hungry again very soon.
Focus on healthy food like nuts, fruits and vegetables, eggs, and whole grains.
There are plenty of other suggestions, but it’s important to do what works for you.
We all want to get ahead. We all want to be seen as hard working and dedicated employees. But that doesn't - and shouldn't - include pushing ourselves from sunrise to sunset. Taking a break over lunch is actually the best thing you can do. It recharges your batteries, clears your head, lowers stress, and improves concentration. In short, it makes you a better employee, better able to work productively in the afternoon.
Photo by Seth W.
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