Why I started Lunch Break — a community focused on self-care at work

The idea for Lunch Break came after a particularly stressful morning at my day job. You know, the kind of morning with back-to-back meetings and dozens of e-mails each with their own emergency. By the time lunch rolled around, I was exhausted and dreaming of a siesta — sadly, a fading tradition — or a great mid-day meal like they enjoy in France. Instead, I ate chips out of a vending machine and spent 30 minutes scrolling through Instagram. I knew I was eating garbage and wasting my time, but I just didn’t have the energy to come up with anything better. So, there I sat.

Later that night I found myself down a rabbit hole reading about how successful people spend their lunch breaks connecting, moving, reading, and eating well; I hated that I was doing the exact opposite. And it turns out, I wasn’t alone. Over 60% of professionals working in the United States say they typically eat lunch at their desks.

We live in a society that is over stimulated, over weight, and over worked. We’re not so good at taking care of ourselves, and when we do talk about self-care it’s usually in the context of a glass of wine and a bubble bath after work. If we’re going to spend a third of our lives at work, shouldn’t we take care of ourselves there, too?

As I thought more and more about all of this, I started realizing a year’s worth of lunch breaks amounted to about 250 hours worth of time that could be spent living with intention and actively working toward self-improvement. I just had to take advantage of the opportunity.

I decided to make a change, but I was missing the community and inspiration I knew I’d need to achieve results. So, I created Lunch Break.

Our mission is to help young professionals work smarter, get healthier, and stress less. Right now, we do that through a weekly newsletter with great reads and recommendations on work culture, healthy living, productivity, stress management, and exercise. Since launching in May of 2018, Lunch Break has grown to nearly 3,000 readers — mostly millennial women.

Although the self-care movement is generally associated with women, it’s equally necessary for men. According to Mental Health America — a community-based non-profit dedicated to addressing the needs of those with living with mental illness in the United States — 6 million men are affected by depression each year and 3 million men live with some sort of anxiety disorder. However, only 200,000 men report feeling stress, anxiety, or depression because of work. Despite the health risks, 44% of men believe persistent stress and anxiety are a normal part of life.

If Lunch Break is successful it will help both men and women feel better at work so they can do better work. To that end, we aren’t just a newsletter, we’re a rapidly growing community. An engaged and supportive one at that.

Shortly after its launch, Lunch Break dedicated consecutive issues to the topic of helpfulness. First, we wrote about why people should be more open to asking for help, and invited readers to share the stories of what they needed help with. Then, we published the responses and helped facilitate connections between community members. Almost everyone who asked for help got it, and one Lunch Break’er even hired another for some freelance work! So cool!

This is a modest example, but one that I believe signals we’re on the right track. So, in 2019, we plan to double down on community by launching digital community groups. For example, the healthy living community group will help its members develop better habits through expert interviews, exclusive content, daily reminders, accountability partners, and encouragement.

We have a long way to go, but we know we’re on to something special. Join us on the journey?

Sign up for Lunch Break — a weekly newsletter that will help you work smarter, get healthier, and stress less.