Maybe you’ve perfected a morning routine and love your nighttime routine, but what about a lunch break routine? That’s right: your lunch break doesn’t have to be spent scarfing down a Lean Cuisine at the computer or bingeing 30 minutes of Real Housewives. And for those of you who skip a lunch break altogether: we need to talk.
A break in your workday is not only necessary for your wellbeing, but it’s necessary for productivity, focus, mood, and energy throughout the entire day. If you eat for 15 or 30 minutes, you probably still have some leftover time to enjoy before you have to get back to Zoom meetings and work tasks. Since many of us are working from home right now, it’s the perfect opportunity to make the most of our lunchtime.
Here are eight ways to hack your lunch break to transform your entire day:
1. Fit in a workout
Although it sounds counterintuitive, when you’re lacking something, give more to get more. When I feel a lack of energy, I know putting some energy into a workout will restore energy levels and make me feel refreshed for the rest of the workday. And if you’re feeling anxious, irritated, or stressed out? A workout is a perfect way to blow off some steam.
2. Meal plan for the next day
If a stressful workday leaves you feeling out of control in your life, making plans and getting organized can help you feel in control again. However, don’t spend this time scheduling meetings or prepping your presentation (after all, it is supposed to be a work break). Instead, prepare something just for you, like planning out recipes for the next day that you’ll look forward to eating. Not only will it give you something to look forward to, but you’ll feel a little more in control of your well-being.
3. Get outside
If your job involves sitting at a desk all day and quarantine means staying indoors 24/7, take advantage of the extra time to get outside. Going on a walk will not only be good for your health (your Fitbit will be so proud!), but getting some fresh air and sunshine can improve your mood. Just being in the great outdoors for a quick lunch break can increase vitamin D levels, improve concentration, and boost well-being. If a walk doesn’t sound tempting, do whatever you can to get fresh air: open your windows, call your mom while getting some sunshine (don’t forget your SPF), or eat your lunch outside.
4. Do something creative or take time to “play”
Take a life evaluation right now: when’s the last time you did anything just for fun? How do you spend your off-time that isn’t bingeing Netflix? If it’s difficult (or impossible) for you to think of an answer, your very stressful adult life has likely taken precedence over an important aspect of life: having fun. Take a break in your workday for an activity that has no other purpose other than just being fun. Turn on music and dance (more on that below), play a game you used to play as a kid, or do something creative like coloring, scrapbooking, or writing. Doing something mindless and silly will reset your energy levels for the rest of the day, and doing something creative will have a wide range of health benefits.
4. Pamper yourself
Maybe you reserve your self-care routine or bath time for the evening, but why not also fit in some pampering in between meetings and work tasks? Picture this: you close your laptop for a break after a frazzled, busy, and stressful morning. You run yourself a bath, do a face mask, or paint your nails. Maybe you even light a candle or diffuse some essential oils. You might even change from your work clothes (or sweatpants–no shame) to a luxurious robe, indulge in a good book, or take a hot shower to feel refreshed. How different would you feel for the rest of your afternoon? Pampering yourself doesn’t have to be reserved for spa days or nighttime routines. Even just 10-30 minutes of self-care is enough to recharge so you’ll be at your peak for the rest of the day.
5. Make a to-do list based on life goals
Making a to-do list on your lunch break is not revolutionary, but this is no ordinary to-do list. Take some time to ask yourself where you want to be in 5-10 years, and then make a to-do list for the rest of the day, week, or month. For example, schedule in business growth strategy, an online class, or a workout class (if your goal is to be more active). To-do lists of even the simplest tasks should have a long-term perspective. Of course, you’ll always have to do the mundane house chores or tedious tasks, but try to figure out where you can outsource and prioritize what will get you closer to your goals (yes, that means a meal prep sesh or the brainstorm meeting you’ve been putting off).
6. Do chores
If you don’t feel the need to relax on your lunch break, consider checking some items off your adulting to-do list. Whether it’s tidying up the kitchen, folding laundry, or running errands, getting some things accomplished will not only make your environment cleaner, better, and more relaxing, but you’ll feel accomplished, clear, and motivated for the rest of your day. The best part? Since you’ll already have the chores done by the time 5 p.m. rolls around, you’ll be able to spend the entire evening for yourself.
7. Have a dance party
If we’re being honest, this silly hack has changed my life. It’s easy to take life seriously when we’re going from meeting to meeting, and sometimes all we need to get more energy and instantly boost our mood is to turn on a playlist and let our bodies move. While I love throwing myself a mini dance party while cooking or getting ready, nothing makes me more productive or focused throughout the rest of the day than taking a break to jam out to 1, 2 Step (if you know, you know). I also love dance cardio classes which teach you choreography while sneaking in some workout moves. You’ll be multitasking with a workout and an energy-boosting dance party. Trust me: you’ll forget all about that scary presentation coming up tomorrow.
8. Do nothing but eat
And for those days where you can’t take a long break, or you feel too exhausted to do anything? Just eat. Close your laptop, put away your phone, and let yourself mindfully enjoy your meal. Turn mealtime into meditation by sitting somewhere quiet and focusing on every delicious bite. Since we typically eat on autopilot and multitask during meals (hello, Netflix binge), turning your lunch into a calm, sacred act will help you savor the experience, take your time to eat, and reconnect with your senses. Trust me: you’ll return to work calm, collected, at peace, and ready for whatever the afternoon will throw at you.