Beat Stress: 5 things to do in your lunch break

Perhaps you came into work stressed this morning, or you have felt it steadily building?  Either way, your lunch break can be one of our greatest weapons to subdue stress and keep it at bay.

Consider your lunch break to be your essential rest and repair time, and when you use it effectively, you can be rewarded with a more manageable afternoon that keeps you feeling in control for longer.


Here are 5 things to consider in your lunch break:

1. Get Outdoors!


Step away from the desk (it will still be there when you get back!)


Feeling like you are glued to your desk? Wondering if you can multitask your way through lunch to keep working whilst you nibble on a sandwich? This is most likely not a recipe for success! You end up feeling frazzled and resentful, and tasks take longer which causes more and more stress.


If you have an outdoor workspace make the most of it! Connecting with nature has been shown to improve mood and reduce stress, throw in the added benefits of a blast of sunshine and you are heading into the afternoon winning at work!


Take your lunch outside with you, come prepared with a packed lunch and a flask of your favourite beverage.


2. Ditch The Drama!


Catching up with colleagues at lunchtime can be very much the social highlight of the day, but if your colleagues use their break to vent in an unproductive way, watch out! You could be using your precious downtime to be left feeling worn out, irritated and depleted.


Know that it is O.K. to excuse yourself from the obligatory meeting place once in a while. Your headspace is a valuable asset that you can choose to protect. By not allowing yourself to be sucked into someone else’s drama vacuum, you can focus on keeping you on the level benefitting yourself, and everyone else you encounter during the day.


The easiest way to do this is to pre-plan your escape route!  You could be honest and say that you need some fresh air, or that you are starting a new more mindful approach to your lunch breaks and that you want to be outdoors. Whichever way you chose to approach it, give yourself permission to remove yourself from the lunchtime gossip/drama treadmill every once in a while.


3. Grab A Mindful Moment


Mindfulness, the trendy buzzword that leaves some of us wondering how we can be on the inside of whatever this secret Zen-like state is. Supposing you don’t have time to wrap yourself in a toga and scale a mountain on your lunch break, read on!


We can be more mindful in less than five minutes, quietly sit or walk somewhere and begin to wonder! Tune in, spend a moment wondering what you can see and notice it. Consciously allow yourself to see what is around you.


Then shift your awareness to what you can hear, pick up the sounds around you and identify them, notice what you can listen to that maybe you were not aware of before.


And then wonder what you can feel, are you walking on gravel, or sitting on a chair? Is there sun on your face or wind in your hair? Allow the sense of feeling to open up to you and sit with it for a moment or two.


And here you are, being mindful! This is a great way to shut off the noise from your head for a few moments, it brings you into the present and has been said to have a calming effect.


4. Get Moving!


Some studies suggest that exercise can be as effective for mild to moderate depression as antidepressant medication.  Not only does exercise promote feelings of well-being and calm, but also it severs as an essential midday distraction. If you are feeling stressed and anxious, a walking distraction can be a super smart pursuit to free up some headspace and claim a sense of inner calm.


Don’t want to do this on your own? You might like to company of colleagues and consider organising a regular walking lunch break. Throw in a quirky name, and you will have a happy little walking troop to keep you company! (The jolly jaunt?)


5. Breathe!


Nothing fancy to bamboozle you, just breathe! Set a timer on your phone for a short time, two minutes to start with and just breathe. Dedicate this tiny amount of time to consciously slowing your breath, feeling it as it enters and then leaves your body. You might even feel your shoulders and neck begin to relax as you immerse yourself in this steady and easy pattern of breaths.


An easy way to fit this into your workday is to practice slower more mindful breathing every time you have a bathroom break or visit to the water fountain.