Mental Health Awareness Week – time for lunch

Mental Health Awareness weeks starts 12th May 2014. This offers us all an opportunity to reflect on our psychological wellbeing. 

Those of us working in or outside the home often work hard and in all likelihood we all do a great job at this. However, our workloads are often high and it is tempting to think that the more hours we put in the better we will perform – this is as true for those of us caring for others at home as it is for those of us who work outside the home. We may feel anxious about being able to get our work done and this anxiety may cause us to feel stressed. We may then deal with this by depriving ourselves of good self care, the very good care that we are probably good at offering others. One seemingly easy way to find more time is to cut out our lunch break. I know myself that if I do not take a lunch break my head feels decidedly fuzzy in the afternoon and I become less efficient. I don’t feel good and by the time I get home I am not at my best. However, if I do take a lunch break, preferably not in the working environment, I feel refreshed for the afternoon, clear headed and I am efficient. I don’t think I am unusual in this and a quick Google search about the importance of taking a break at work reveals countless articles and research articles, none of which advocate relinquishing our lunch break.

I was talking recently to a cabin crew worker for a large and well known transatlantic airline. This airline has a good track record for excellent customer care. Like other long haul airlines this one has a bed in the cockpit so that the pilots can take it in turns to have a sleep. However, unlike the “cheaper” airlines, this one also has bunks for the cabin crew. I am informed that according to cabin crew practice guidelines a break does not have to be provided for a full 13 hours, so your cabin crew when you arrive after a long flight may have been working all of this time with no break. However, smarter airlines understand the need for breaks, if not for humane reasons then certainly from a business point of view – cabin crew who have had a break work better, are happier and as such provide a high quality of customer service.

How about being smart ourselves in this respect? Let’s start genuinely valuing our own wellbeing, as there is probably no-one other than ourselves telling us that we need to work through our lunch breaks. So what are we telling ourselves? That we will not get all of our work done if we take a break? That there is nowhere to take a break? That we’ll just do this one last thing and then take a break, but the break time never comes? If this is the case then how about experimenting with diarising a daily lunch break for the next month and see what this feels like. My guess is that you will feel better in yourself and probably get at least the same amount of work done.

If you find yourself coming up with obstacles to taking a break, how about getting together with colleagues, informally or in a team meeting, to come up with ideas for change.  Just to get the discussing going, how about taking a walk, forming lunch groups, having a room at work which is used for lunch between 1 and 2, playing a board game at lunch-time or talking it in turns to bring lunch for a group? If you work at home can you find a different room in which to have your break, meet with a friend, take a walk, …………..?

Happy Mental Health Awareness Week.

For more information visit the Mental Health Foundation website