I don’t know about you, but my life can be frantic, frenetic and frenzied. However busy I am, I try to have a lunch break and STOP. I have learnt how good it is for me to take stock, rethink and rest half way through the day.
I am currently researching healthy patterns of recreation and self-care for my next book. So the whole subject of lunch hours is fascinating and ‘on trend’ for me.
Here is what I have discovered thus far:
- EAT WELL – Firstly we need to eat the right things at lunch time. I know that many people find themselves falling into the bad habit of having little, or even no food at all. Trying to ‘get stuff done’ has become a byword for ‘neglecting the self.’ We know (deep down) that our bodies need healthy nutrition. But how many times have you gone without what your Nan would call a “proper lunch” and thrown down a cup of bad or cold coffee and a stale nutrigrain bar instead? I think we often forget that failing to give ourselves a decent meal will negatively impact our brain and body’s productivity for the rest of the day. Of course we all know that the opposite is true too. Eating a heavy, carb-tactic lunch is likely to have you nodding off over the spreadsheets on the 6th floor, or in a corner of the playroom. If you focus on fresh food, whole grains, veg and fruits, you will feel better for longer.
- SWITCH OFF – my husband can sleep on a clothes line and is perfectly capable of having 40 winks at the slightest chance. I can occasionally do the same. But not always. The idea of having an actual nap may seem strange but its proven that we would benefit from doing so. Depending on our body clock, our natural energy levels are lower around 2pm – making that the perfect time for a little 20 minute lie down/down time. You may not be able to actually sleep – especially if your babies/toddlers are climbing on your face – but how about switching off for a while? You could turn off your laptop, or stop for a while. Read a book, avoid social media and stay off your phone. Naps can help us remember what we need to focus on. Sleep helps us clear away the information we no longer need from the morning. Having chance to unwind and recharge means our stress levels stay low and that takes away tension, anxiety and worry.
- STOP THINKING – Taking a short break from making the thousands of tiny decisions we need to when working, is so good for you! If you feel as though you are not being as effective as you could be, it might be that your brain is simply overloaded and needs a break. Try it!
- EXERCISE – Lunch time is a great time to go for a walk or a run. Exercise reduces stress, improves our moods and boosts our metabolisms and self esteem. It doesn’t have to be long. It just has to be sustained for 20 minutes to half an hour. You will feel like some kind of exercise guru/ninja all afternoon if you work out over lunch. Just remember to eat and drink too!
- PRAYER – Giving things over to God has the absolutely amazing side effect of making us more effective people. As well as reducing our stress, prayer makes us more compassionate, more self aware, more forgiving, more peaceful and more centred. Prayer gives us fresh perspectives on our problems and dilemmas. It also gives us access to Heavenly creativity and wisdom.
- DRINK WATER – So many people are less efficient because their bodies are thirsty. Often we mistake the cue of thirst for hunger and eat instead. The NHS recommend that adults drink 6-8 glasses of water a day. (Or the equivalent of 2 litres) If you feel sleepy in the afternoon try downing fresh, cold water before you try anything else. Drinking water helps to regulate our body temperature, aids us in circulating nutrients and clears the skin and mind.
- BE QUIET AND STILL – sometimes it’s nice to be sociable and go out for a chatty, fun lunch with others. But there are some days when your body is craving stillness and peace. Try and pace your week and see what your heart and your mind needs most.
You might say to me, “I am a busy mum. How do I do ANY of those things?!” As a mum of 4, I know what it feels like to go without lots of things I needed in order to sacrifice time, energy and chicken nuggets for my kids. Let me just offer a few simple ideas for you though:
a) when your baby or child or children nap or have down time, do it too. You can always put the washing on when they are around and let them help/watch/ dribble near you.
b) try and have quiet activities like jigsaws, playdoh or reading time after lunch. I found it useful to gather some quiet toys and books in a pillow case and hang it (using the fold) on the back of a chair. That way they were close to hand as soon as I’d scooped the sandwich crumbs from all the highchairs/floor.
d) do a nappy change or face wash to signify the end of the meal and the start of still time. I had a little song I used to sing that helped my kids to know what we were going to do next.
e) change the mood with candles and worship music. Just lighting a candle and giving yourself a different scent in the room can calm you ( and your little ones) down and help you breath deeply. Lets face it, children don’t always smell sweet and wonderful! So a little perfume in the room can really help you feel a bit more human again.
f) treat yourself to something tasty and healthy to eat. As a young mum I was often very tired and didn’t always eat ‘well.’ I ate a lot of ‘what was right there,’ rather than ‘what was right.’ The older I have got, the more I am realising that eating crisps won’t help me. I won’t feel fresh and satisfied afterwards. I will feel a bit greasy and unhealthy. One thing I got almost addicted to as a young mum were carrot sticks. They were my saving grace. I made a massive batch of them at the start of the week and put them in different sandwich bags to be ready each day. If you make or buy some yummy humous or dips, that is a great snack or addition to lunch. Olives, nuts, blueberries. Anything fun and fresh would be a good idea. Prepping food in advance is always a boon. I know so many Mummies who miss eating because they are busy doing other things. Putting a pretty, simple salad in a mason jar when you are having breakfast takes seconds, but feels like a life saver later in the day.
I do hope you enjoy these ideas. Let me know how you get on with your epic lunch breaks!