Updated 11 September 2015

Lunch hour - lazy lout or livewire?

The lunch hour looms. What to do?

It's only Monday and by 11 a.m. you can feel your blood pressure going through the roof. You have already been blamed for something, which was not your fault as well as watched someone else take credit for your idea.

The lunch hour looms. What to do? Should you stay stuck at your desk with a mound of work with coffee and a greasy pie from the trolley, or should you be more adventurous and find ways to relax and recharge?

"Relax and recharge, every time, even when you have lots of work to do", says Ilse Terblanche, Cape Town psychologist. "Most people have a limited attention span, and carrying on and on for hours, will eventually result in very low productivity levels. Taking a break, eating something nutritious, getting some exercise and focusing on something different for a while can make all the difference. Staying in and surfing the Internet isn't that different from carrying on working."

So what could you do in your lunch hour? Obviously it depends on what is available in the area where you work. If you work for the Bitterfontein municipality, you won't be faced with the difficulty of choosing between a lunchtime lecture and a short performance of the symphony orchestra.

One foot in front of the other. If you sit all day at work, like most office workers do, your back could really take strain after a few weeks. A brisk walk during your lunch hour could make a big difference to you generally – it will up your serotonin levels, get your circulation going and get some fresh air into your lungs.

Hurry past the heart-attack-on-a-plate. Fast food is tempting during lunch hour – and at other times, for that matter. But these are often loaded with fat, and subsequently not very healthy. If you do the hamburger-and-chips-thing for lunch too often, you could run into some serious health problems fairly soon.

Have a haircut. If you work in a big city, there is probably a hairdresser nearby. Make an appointment over your lunch hour and treat yourself to a trim or to a new look. Also don't underestimate the joy of having someone else massage your scalp.

Catch up with friends. If you are generally quite pressed for time, lunch hour is a good time to catch up with friends. De-stress, catch up, talk about something else except work and have a nice healthy lunch to boot.

Go shopping. No, not the type where you load the trolley sky high with cornflakes and disposable nappies, but the type where you have a good time while browsing through a flea market or checking what's on offer at the summer sales.

Park off at the park. If there is a safe park close to where you are working, pack yourself a picnic lunch and go and spend some time among the trees and the birds and the squirrels. This is always refreshing.

Lunchtime concerts/film shows. In the big cities, there are often lunchtime activities that might be interesting and stimulating. Broaden your horizons, and forget about the proposal you're putting together for the new client. A break will do you good.

Gym gyration.This might not be for everyone, but what better way to de-stress and re-energise than to do an aerobics class or swim 15 lengths in the swimming pool? Obviously this is only possible if there is a gym close by. No boss can be expected to tolerate your taking 2-hour lunch breaks every day, because you're driving to your gym 10 km away.

Take a nap. Obviously if you work in an open office, this will be frowned upon, as people might object having to climb over you on returning from their sortie to the canteen. But if you have an office that closes, take a pillow and stretch out for a while. Your eyes probably also need the rest.

Have a massage. Some large companies bring in masseurs to give tension-relieving massages to their employees. If you're not one of the lucky ones, see if there is a place somewhere in the area, who will give short massages during lunch hour. Find someone who specialises in neck and shoulder tension-relieving massages.

Eat something fresh. Fresh fruit, a nice vegetable dish or a healthy wholewheat sandwich will give you an energy boost, unlike the greasy pie and chips.

Be an exhibitionist. Check the papers to see which art exhibitions or museum exhibitions are on in your area. Wander through them at lunchtime - it will make you feel refreshed. -(Susan Erasmus)


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