Why You Should Consistently Go For Your Lunch Breaks On Time
When I was a kid, I used to love recess time. Now that I am working, and due to the nature of my job that has me constantly chasing deadlines, I see lunch breaks as something that will only slow me down.
Until one lovely afternoon, my friend and I were talking about lunch breaks; I learnt that and despite her hectic schedule, unlike me, my friend values her lunch break. Her simple but valid reason? It is her human time. That struck me to the core because I have never thought about it that way. All of the sudden, I felt a pang of guilt as I realised that I have not been doing justice to myself. After that conversation which took place in December last year, taking lunch breaks quickly went to my 2021 resolution’s list. After a few months of practicing, here are a few benefits I have gained when I took my lunch break.
1. It improves my brain function.
Believe it or not, there is a correlation between our glucose intake and productivity. Even when dieting, experts do not condone skipping meals. The same goes for when we are working, our brain needs fuel to continue to function.
I used to turn to coffee (how typical) when I feel sluggish even when the day is already ending, which in return will disrupt my sleeping schedule. So instead of coffee, I have turned to healthy snacks such as dark chocolate or nuts. My personal favourite is cashew nuts. Not only is it an antioxidant powerhouse, but I also genuinely like the taste; that somehow releases endorphins to my brain and I would feel more energized to do my work. So remember, the things you put in your body will help you to focus or lose focus – put the right food in your brain to gain more focus.
2. It improves my mental well-being.
Lunch break is not just for eating, it’s a break from your work. By taking little breaks daily, you will learn how to control your stress better. Take the phrase ‘sleep on it’ for instance: we say that because after sleeping, we can think more clearly. The same goes for a lunch break. Once our brain has taken a break, the problems or whatever work we left on the desk can be solved/done quicker.
There was once a time where I felt overwhelmed with the work that was piling up; despite knowing the fact that I had to get it done asap, my brain just wouldn’t cooperate with me. Suddenly everything felt big and tedious and I let my overwhelmed brain get the best of me. So, I decided to get away from my desk for 20 minutes. When I came back, the tasks in front of me did not seem to be that big and everything seemed clearer. Never underestimate what 20 minutes of break can do to your overall mood and wellbeing for that day — you need that break!
3. It regains my true purpose as a person.
Echoing my friend, with eight hours (or more) dedicated every single day to your job, this break is your me-time. Despite being in the corporate finance world, my friend said she still could not grasp the idea of eating at her desk. Even when she does not get to go outside, she will go to the pantry or somewhere else to eat her lunch. Of course, there are days where she lets work overtake her me-time. However, she makes sure that it only happens a couple of times a month! After hearing this, I realised that it is also a good way for you to remind yourself that there is nothing wrong with taking a break while hustling. We are all humans. After all, we are not built to function non-stop for a few hours straight.
Now that we have looked at the importance of lunch breaks, here are some simple things you can do to maximise your lunch breaks.
1. Eat the right food and practice mindful eating.
Choose the right food that will not make you feel sluggish. For example, avoid food that is heavy in carbs such as nasi lemak or curry, especially if you have a big presentation or an important meeting first thing in the morning. Other than that, be mindful and focus on only eating; eating while working is not a lunch break. Of course, there will be times where it is unavoidable. So, when that happens, try to sneak in 15 to 30 minutes and eat somewhere other than your desk. It is still better than being glued to your desk the whole day!
2. Eat with your colleagues.
Eating with your colleagues will help you regain your human connection. Not to mention, good work relationships can help both mental and physical health. The emotional bond you have created is one way to reduce stress and increase your mood to come back to your desk. Your colleagues are the people you see or talk to the most in your daily life even when you are working remotely. So, it’s only natural that you rely on each other for the human connection we all need.
3. Use the time to reflect and reorganise.
If you are not with your colleagues or choose to spend your lunch break alone, use this time to relax and reflect on your day. Using this time to reorganise your thoughts can help you stay focused through the rest of your day. Even when you have already made a to-do list the night before, sometimes things change. You can use this time to re-plan your day if you need to! Re-planning your day can help in keeping your goals of the day realistic so you won’t feel overwhelmed with the expectations you have set for yourself the day before.
4. Sneak a quick walk or a little stretch.
After half a day of being behind the desk, lunch break is the perfect time to sneak in a quick stretch or exercise. There are a lot of videos and articles of stretch exercises you can find on the internet that will help you but my personal favourite from this article is the ‘Shoulder Shrug’. Because I do a lot of typing, the shoulder shrug stretch helps release a lot of stress and tension. Plus, I can also do it while sitting! If you don’t feel like taking walk or doing a stretch, a quick 10-minute power nap is also one way to maximise your lunch break if you are working from home.
Consider this article as a reminder. Lunch break is your right. Just like how we need to stop glamorizing leaving home after 7 p.m., we need to stop glamorising eating at your desk or worse, not taking your lunch break at all. Your future self will thank you as your overall physical and mental wellbeing depends on the decision you make daily. So, choose wisely.