The average doctor works about 12 hours a day, and rather than “doing lunch,” most spend this prime time completing morning charts and other paperwork or answering staff questions about their patients. However, not only is it important to eat during your lunch break, it’s also crucial to take time to unwind.
“You should be as strategic about your lunch hour as you are about your day in general,” says national workplace expert and author Lynn Taylor. Consider the following key strategies to make the most of your lunch break.
Just eat—slowly. If you don’t do anything else during your lunch break, take the time for a healthy meal without distractions, and slow it down. Nutrition experts at choosemyplate.gov caution that eating too fast or while distracted can lead to overeating and digestive distress.
Disconnect and decompress. Step away from all screens and take several minutes to close your eyes, concentrate on a specific thought or object, and breathe deeply. Also called mindful breathing, it’s one of the most effective ways to lower everyday stress and improve a variety of health-related factors, from mood to metabolism.
Get moving. If taking a gym break isn’t an option, try spending part of your break outside and in the sun, which can help clear the head and boost mood and energy levels. If getting outside is a challenge, try workspace yoga.
Try guided relaxation. Also known as guided imagery or guided meditation, guided relaxation entails focusing on words and images to help you calm, recharge, and refocus your day. Available apps offer various guided relaxation options, from brief to longer sessions. Among the most popular are Sattva, Calm, and Headspace.
“Physicians are professionals who at their core are called to self-sacrifice and inclined to always do what’s necessary to take care of patients,” says American Medical Association Past-President Steven J. Sack, MD. Committing to taking time in the middle of the workday to refuel can make you a better doctor and a healthier and happier person.