This article is the second in a 3-part series, looking at the small changes you can make to your daily routine to live better and — most important — feel better. The first article in the series was Making your morning commute do more for you.
Fairly often, your employment contract allows for an hour’s lunch break each day. Legally in the UK, workers have the right to one interrupted 20minute rest break during the working day (whether you smoke or not!). In principle, I don’t know many (if any) who consistently take a whole hour for lunch, and I know plenty in my previous line of work (#guiltyascharged) who ate at their desk, having quickly ‘popped out’ to grab a baguette, or — if it was Friday — a burrito (PS. those burritos were good).
If you’re not careful, you can find yourself chained to your desk all day long, with no breaks. This is far from ideal, and neither good for your sanity nor wellbeing.
Here are some ideas as to how you can make your lunch break serve best the person that matters most — you:
1. Don’t eat at your desk
Ever. Seriously, if you’re sitting in the seat in which you do ‘work’, you’ll feel in that same mindset (whether consciously aware of it or not) whilst sitting in that same seat eating your lunch. Even if you’re catching up on the latest football news or James Corden’s latest Carpool Karaoke duet. Also, it’ll be much more difficult to “switch off” from work-mode to relaxed-mode, and then back “on” again when it’s time to get back to work. Because you’ve just stayed in the same place, and are probably looking at the very screen you’ve been staring at for most of the morning.
Instead, step away from your desk, even if it’s just for 15 minutes. Some offices have a kitchen or a canteen, where you can get away from your desk, chill in your own space, or chat (about non-work-stuff) with others in the office. Or, you can step out of the office entirely…
2. Take a walk
Get some fresh air. Whether you’re in the city, further west, or in Canary Wharf, there are plenty of routes to explore, discovered and undiscovered. It might take some investigation to find a path away from the flow of office workers / tourists, and you might even find some green space or running water… even Canary Wharf has both. Just like food is an essential part of your re-energising and functioning, fresh air can literally heal you.
3. Do an activity
If you’re not in the mood for walking or a workout, does your firm offer any lunchtime clubs/activities? If it doesn’t, or doesn’t have anything you like, can you start one? Whether it’s playing bridge or a ‘book club’, this sort of lunchtime group can give you something fun to engage with away from work, really allowing you to switch off and hang out with colleagues in a non-worky context. Really refreshing for everyone.
If not at work, you might be able to find a lunchtime class nearby — London is huge! Just do a google search to see what’s near you.
4. Find some quiet time
As a self-confessed introvert, it was little wonder that — after long days spent in an open-plan office, talking on the phone and in meetings for much of the day — I’d find myself exhausted at the end of each day, and even more so by the end of the week. If you can relate to this, a little alone time might be just what you need at lunchtime.
You can go for a quiet walk, find a quiet place in your office’s building, or take a book outside with you. You might just want your brain to switch off for a bit, and take a seat on a bench, just watching the world go by. (I used to do this sometimes in the Gardens of St. Paul’s Cathedral, where there was a rectangular patch of grass surrounded by benches. Bliss).
5. Think about your food
I couldn’t write about a lunch-break and not include ‘food’. Food and it’s effect on your wellbeing and how you feel is worth a whole post all by itself, but it’s worth more than a mention here, too. In London, the world is your oyster — and you can have pretty much whatever lunchtime snack or delicacy you fancy. Even oysters.
As a general rule, just keep the basics in mind. Drink plenty of water. Have fruit and veg on at least a couple of weekdays. Try not to have rich, heavy food every day of the week.
As with making any changes, don’t try to climb Everest straightaway — choose one small thing (more water, fruit twice a week) and just build from there.
6. Perhaps most importantly … take a lunch break!
All too often, we are busy. There’s lots to get done. Or, we feel guilty if we take a lunch break, because our boss doesn’t, or other team members just seem to stick at their desks.
Again — you are the most important person here. It’s for you to put yourself first, and it’s well within your right to carve out time for a lunch break, even if it’s just for 20 or 30minutes. If you’re not “switching off” from your work during this middle-ish part of the day, this is likely to your detriment.
Put yourself first, carve out that time, and make your lunch break work for you. It’s a real opportunity to look after yourself, and it will impact the rest of your day — whether you realise it or not.
The small things add up, and your lunch break is another one of those little pieces which form the big puzzle.
Enjoy it. It’s yours :)
Friday 15th September, 2017
This article originally featured here.