I have to say that this is one of my favorite life lessons:
After lunch, change your pants and take a nap
The ritual after lunch was changing diapers and getting everyone went down for a nap. My fellow teachers and I had perfected a routine from Ben, who fell asleep in his food, to Chloe, who you had to practically lay on for her to fall asleep. There was an oasis of calm, and the kids were raring to go when they woke up. If they missed their nap, well, I believed I used the term “terror” a time or two?
We need a break. When we keep pushing and keep pushing, our productivity actually decreases. We need to take the time to recharge and refresh, because let’s face it, most everyone around you can tell you need a break when you get cranky. Take Mr. Grumpygills for a short swim, and everything will look different when you get back.
My friend and colleague, Rita, has brilliant things to say about this concept:
That was the life, right?! Play all morning, have lunch, take a break, take a nap, and then go play again. What happened to us as we turned into adults? Did we supposedly gain some super-human powers that let us work ALL day without a break and still produce quality work and be healthy? (If this is the case, then I am not sure where I was when those super-human capes were handed out… I guess I either missed the memo or was maybe taking a nap after lunch?)
Expectations. Those annoying super-human-expectations. Where did they come from? How did we come to expect ourselves to work hours and hours on end without a break and without “real” meals? (By the way, eating at your desk, does NOT constitute a “real” meal.) Working more does NOT necessarily translate into being more productive, in fact, it may translate into being less healthy according to this article in Total Wellness.
Have you ever noticed limitations to your attention span, energy, and creativity? Does staying at your desk and slogging on through the day without a healthy break help increase any of these? If your answer is yes to this last question, please let me know your secret because it sure does NOT work for me. The science of the matter is that as we work to meet deadlines and continually troubleshoot and find solutions for those nagging problems, our bodies go into the “fight-or-flight” mode. *Science nerd alert* Our brains are programmed to go into crisis mode when we feel like we are in danger or threatened, and please keep in mind, the danger does NOT have to be real like a car speeding towards you. In fact, the “danger” could be perceived with thoughts like, “I may lose my job if I miss this deadline or am late again”, or even imagined with thoughts like, “Why is everyone looking at me? Am I going to get fired?”
When we are in the “fight-or-flight” mode, adrenaline and cortisol are released in our bodies and a lot of physical changes take place. Over time, this will result in stress overload with actual changes in our physical, emotional, and mental well-being. Signs and symptoms of stress overload include increased irritability, decreased productivity, decrease in good decision making, change in eating habits, weight gain, increased caffeine, alcohol, and/or drug consumption… just to name a few.
Think back to those playground days. Wasn’t life more fun and productive when we took a break after lunch? Maybe you don’t need to change your pants, but how about changing your shoes and going for a 10–20 minute walk?
Flexible hours? Take a longer lunch break, change your business casual for workout or yoga casual and take a yoga class or go workout. I have a feeling you will be amazed at the increased energy and productivity in your afternoon and evening. It does not have to be complicated. I am so about the KISS principle as in… Keep It Simple Sweetie!
I have the advantage that I work from home and yes, some days I do take a nap after lunch. I LOVE long naps so to avoid napping for too long, I ask my Alexa to set a 20-30 minute timer and/or drink a really BIG glass of water before I lay down. (PS – The latter seems somewhat more effective to getting me out of nap mode!)
Have a major deadline and don’t have time for an extended lunch? How about getting up from behind the computer and do 10 jumping jacks, pushups, or squats. Want to add a “few more steps” (aka movement) to your day? Walk to another floor to get more coffee or water or to use the restroom. Find some simple self-care tips you can slide into your day to break up the monotony and get your brain out of crisis mode. You can increase your productivity and clear thinking by just one small simple change.
By taking breaks during our day, we allow our brains and bodies to relax, reset, and recharge. This sets us up for better work and better health. By taking these breaks, we allow our bodies to go into the “resting-and-digesting” mode and let our bodies relax, repair, and heal. Learning how to balance those two modes really is the key because the “fight-or-flight” mode is here to stay. Those REGULAR lunch breaks, naps, and “changing of pants” are crucial to good health at work and at home.
I guarantee you that your future self will thank you (and your boss, too!) if you take this one simple lesson from the playground adapted to adulthood… after a real lunch away from your desk, take a break, change your shoes, and go for a walk or…yes, just take a nap.