When you have a demanding job, lunch breaks can easily turn into a snatched bite to eat followed by a whirlwind race to complete everything on your to-do list. Before you know it, you’re back to work. But taking a proper break is essential to avoid getting depleted, particularly if you’re on your feet all day long, interacting with customers and co-workers. With the current challenges you may be facing, relaxing and recharging is crucial to help lower stress and improve productivity.
“Don’t feel guilty about taking a break which will allow you to return to work mentally refreshed,” Risa Mish, J.D., a professor of management at Cornell University, tells Thrive. “Time away from work allows you to bring your best self to the work you do,” she says — even if the “time away” is only a brief scheduled break. And while a lunch break won’t replace several days of time off, it is possible to enjoy those precious minutes off the clock as you would on vacation.
Here are five ways to do just that:
Spend no more than 10 minutes on your to-do list
If you need to connect with your partner and children or schedule an appointment, attend to that business at the start of your break. That way you’ll be free to spend the rest of the time detaching and relaxing.
Eat lunch in a calm environment
While it can be a treat to eat out, bringing a tasty, nutritious meal that you’ve prepared yourself to work will save you time, allowing you to really relax during the time off. Whether you enjoy your lunch with a friend or by taking some peaceful time alone, eating sitting down (rather than on the run) will feel much more satisfying and vacation-like.
Do something you enjoy
On vacation, we seek out activities that bring us joy. Similarly, during your break, Mish suggests doing something that’s meaningful to you, like reading or listening to music you love. “I like to make mini playlists of favorite songs from the year I graduated high school and the year I graduated college, and then turn off my email and turn on the tunes,” she says. Sing along out loud if that is possible, she adds. “It is one of the easiest ways to ‘time travel’ and it’s both therapeutic and energizing.”
Take a walk outdoors
It’s great for everyone, but getting outside and moving is especially valuable if you’re working in an environment without natural light and where there’s constant noise. Being in nature is calming, invigorating, and can help make our time away from work feel luxurious.
Devote five minutes to mindfulness
Find somewhere quiet, if that’s an option, and end your break with a brief meditation to help you relax and reconnect with yourself. Try the “Moment for Yourself” daily meditations found in this app — or just take some deep breaths — and you’ll return to your job revitalized and energized, ready for the rest of your day.