Taking breaks during the working day is extremely beneficial.
How are you spending your lunch breaks at the moment? Are you utilising it to re-energise and recharge, or are you sitting at your desk eating while you continue to work?
Maybe you don’t even take a break because you have ‘too much to do.’
Working through lunch and skipping breaks can decrease our motivation, reduce productivity and lead to burnout.
Hustle culture and toxic productivity have allowed work to creep in and take over our lives, increasing pressure on our workloads. But taking a well-deserved break can not only help to reduce anxiety and stress, but it can also improve work performance.
‘When there’s lots to do and tight deadlines at work, it’s easy to get into the habit of working long hours without taking a break. But over time, working without taking a break is not sustainable,’ says business wellbeing guide and trainer Ros Jones.
‘It leads to stress, fatigue, and physical aches and pains, which in turn will mean loss of focus, poor productivity, errors, loss of creativity, burnout and days off sick.
Working for extended periods has been scientifically proven to lead to heart disease, diabetes, stress-related disease, back problems and repetitive strain injuries.’
Ros explains that we need to take care of our well-being in order to maintain the well-being of the business as a whole. ‘When we are not functioning at an optimum level, then neither will the business,’ they say.
Why are breaks important?
Taking a break in the middle of the day to have a meal and break away from our work is vital for our wellbeing.
‘It can be easy to push on through with the dated belief that you’re only successful if you’re constantly “busy”. But eating lunch raises your blood sugar level to give you the energy you need to maintain focus and concentration for the rest of the day,’ says Ros.
While food gives us the energy, we need to continue, taking a break also gives our bodies the chance to rest.
‘Taking breaks at work is a good way to keep stress levels down and concentration up,’ says meditation and wellness expert Aysha Bell. ‘Breaks allow us to stay focused and process the work we are doing, and they also help with sleep at night.
‘Short, regular breaks make for a productive mindset. When we change our brain activity, it allows the neurotransmitters in the brain to rest. This, in turn, will aid focus because the part of the brain that is working gets a chance to restart and reset.’
So, how do we switch off?
It can be tempting to carry on working while grabbing something to eat but having a break is not only about fuelling our bodies.
‘It’s also about switching off from work. So, instead of replying to emails while mindlessly chewing our food, it’s good to remove yourself from your workstation if you can,’ explains Ros. ‘Set yourself an alarm that reminds you to stop working.’
Aysha suggests stepping out of the office and getting into nature.
‘Getting into nature is a good way to ground ourselves and distress in the middle of the day.’
What can we do during our lunch breaks?
‘There are endless possibilities for using your lunch break to recharge,’ says Ros. ‘Rather than feeling guilty for taking an hour away from work, it’s a good idea to acknowledge that your lunch break is crucial for taking responsibility for your wellbeing.
‘Go outside and take a walk by yourself or with friends. If your work is sedentary, it’s important to do some exercise. You could go for a run, take an online yoga class or get to the gym.’
But if you can’t get outside, Ros recommends doing something creative to recharge, whether that’s reading a book, listening to music, or painting.
Journalist Gabriella Ferlita, tells Metro.co.uk that is she is working from home, she will spend her lunch watching Netflix while having something to eat. But if she is at the office, she tries to go outside, or at the very least, she will move away from her desk.
For writer Marcio Delgado, listening to music has proved the best way to switch off and rest his eyes during lunch.
But your break doesn’t have to be stimulating or active. For Aysha, having a 20-minute power nap has been extremely helpful.
‘I always feel well rested and focused afterwards. It’s actually magic,’ she says.
If possible, try to switch up your lunchtime routine. Go to a new cafe, explore a different area or start a new TV show.
But above all, make it fun.
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