Healthy Habit #8 – A Month of Breaks (and an update on gratitude)

At the beginning of the year, I decided to try to add healthy habits instead of making resolutions, hoping that at least a few of them will stick and I will end the year healthier than I was at the beginning.  So far, there have been a few that have stuck, and those have made my life healthier and happier.

One day a couple of weeks ago, I was sitting at my desk at work, scarfing down a piece of pizza, trying not to get grease all over a report I was working on, and it hit me –  working through lunches, eating at my desk and not really paying attention to what I was chewing, cannot be healthy.  I had already decided what my healthy habit for August was going to be, but in that moment, I decided to put that one off and remedy my unhealthy lunchtime routine this month instead.  So for this month, the new habit I am going to try out is taking a break.  I am going to actually leave my office and eat my lunch without trying to multi-task my way through it.

This is what I look like at lunch time.

This is what I look like at lunch time.

It turns out that there is a lot of information out there about the benefits of actually stepping away from the office for lunch, and an equal amount of studies and statistics that show just how many employees are not reaping those benefits.  Here is some of what I’ve learned:

  • the typical American lunch break is less than 30 minutes
  • up to two-thirds of workers skip lunch or eat at their desks
  • depending on which study you look at, 18-34 percent of workers always eat at their desks and 16-31 percent reported that they almost always skip lunch in favor of continuing to work
  • the reason that most people cite for not taking time out for lunch is that the demands of work are increasingly high and workplaces are increasingly understaffed

I fall into the eating-at-my-desk category.  Sometimes I pack a lunch, sometimes a coworker runs out and gets us lunch, and sometimes I run next door to Subway, grab a sandwich and settle back in at my desk to eat while I continue to work.  Not stepping away for my break and taking a break from my computer screen makes the day long, and I often feel tired and grumpy in the afternoon.  I may get a couple of extra things done, but am I really more productive than if I took some time out to recharge?  Studies say no. Here are some of the benefits to taking a lunch break:

  • Taking a break restores your psychological resources.  It is a proven way to increase productivity and decision-making and actually improve your mood in the afternoon.
  • It improves your physical health.  There is a lot of medical mumbo-jumbo to support this finding, but what it boils down to is this:  taking a break lowers the release of the stress hormone cortisol, which in turn, lowers your risk of high blood pressure, insomnia, and other related illnesses.
  • Taking a lunch break away from your work surroundings decreases fatigue.  Getting up and walking away for a bit, eating something healthy, and taking some you-time is like pushing a natural reset button.  It revives you for the afternoon, giving you more energy to tackle work issues.

For the past week, I have taken a lunch break each day, and gotten away from my office to do it.  I have noticed that I have more motivation and energy after doing so.  So far, it seems like my productivity has remained the same, but my mood in the afternoon is improved and I don’t feel as worn out by the end of the day.

So for the rest of the month, I am going to make sure that I take a break for lunch each work day, and I will let you know how it goes.

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Update on a month of gratitude:  By far, July’s healthy habit of gratitude is the one that has made the biggest difference for me.  I am continuing to write down the things for which I’m grateful every day in my journal, and doing so has added loads of peace and joy to my life.  Anytime I need a quick change of perspective about a situation, my mind now automatically goes to seeking out the things that make me thankful.  It’s a practice that is definitely becoming a habit.  I call that a win!

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Gratitude – July 23

Strawberry Shortcake

Happy Wednesday!  It was a good day today, with much to be grateful for.  It was much like yesterday, and the day before, uneventful, no drama and, really kind of predictable.  I really appreciate looking for, and finding, things to be grateful for on uneventful days.  It takes more careful observation throughout the day and reflection in the evening.  I like that.  It’s like replaying my day, focusing on all of the great things that happened.  That’s a nice thing to do before bedtime. 🙂

So, here’s my list for today:

  • I am grateful I have so many wonderful friends at work; they brighten my day.  I love the breaks that we take to chat and catch up throughout the work day.  There is always laughter and smiles in my office.
  • I am grateful that this week has been a reprieve from the workload of the previous two weeks.  I have even had enough time to really clean and declutter my office, and now it looks fantastic!  I only wish that I had taken before and after pictures.
  • I am thankful that I haven’t been as tired the last couple of days even though my allergies and sinuses have been bothering me every morning.
  • I am thankful for the month old puppies that are crawling around my living room.  I can just sit and watch them play for hours…they are getting bigger and braver every day.
  • I am grateful for the strawberry shortcake that I made tonight (and had for dinner!).  Tomorrow it’s all salad, all day.
  • I am thankful that by doing my gratitude lists every day (well, almost every day), my mood, perspective, and level of happiness has improved so much.  When I remember how much I have to be thankful for, it always brings me joy.
Austin and puppies

I couldn’t resist posting this picture…see how much I have to be grateful for? 🙂

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what are you grateful for today

Gratitude – July 14

to do

It should come as no surprise that I didn’t get to my gratitude post yesterday.  It was a 12 hour work day for me, and it was crazy busy.  But that doesn’t mean that I wasn’t mindful about the things that I am grateful for, it means I was just too tired at the end of the day to open up the laptop and type.  Better late, than never, right?

Classes started yesterday at the school where I work as a registrar.  I am grateful that we had such a successful start, as most of the vocational schools here in Tucson are struggling with enrollment.  I feel fortunate that we had so many new students start; it’s good for them and good for the school.  Of course, it means a lot more work for me, but I am thankful to have it.  I am also thankful that the day went so smoothly.  Even though the day was chaotic with things to get done, there was only one minor hiccup in my area.  That’s definitely something for the old gratitude list!

I am also grateful that when I got home last night, my Honey had some comfort food ready for me.  He knew that I would be tired and hungry so he was prepared.  It’s wonderful to be taken care of when I need it most.

I am grateful for the kind words of coworkers.  Yesterday, as I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off, more than one of my coworkers told me how much they appreciate what I do.  That type of recognition is what keeps me going.  The best conversation came early in the day though, and wasn’t work related.  I am very open about my recovery at work, and once a year I do a talk to the student body about alcoholism and addiction.  Yesterday, one of my coworkers came to my office to tell me how proud he is of me and my recovery.  He has a friend that is struggling with alcoholism right now, so he is seeing first hand just how difficult it is for alcoholics to stay sober.  I was touched by his comment.  We spoke for a few minutes and he told me that he had taken his friend to treatment over the weekend, and how hard it was.  Boy, I remember those days.  I am so grateful, though, that his friend was willing to get help.

All in all, it was a good, but exhausting day.  I am looking forward to another one.

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thankful-what

 

Gratitude – July 6

Back-to-reality

My vacation from work is over, I head back to reality tomorrow.  I am anticipating a crazy, busy day.  I will probably have at least 50 voicemails and probably triple or quadruple that in emails.  I will most likely have students, staff, and faculty in my office all day long.  I have a feeling that tomorrow will be one of those days that I get tired of hearing my own name.  “Jami, can you…?” “Jami, did you…?”  “Jami, let me give you an update on…”  “Jami, can I have a few minutes when you’re not busy?”  “Jami, Jami, Jami…”

You know what,  though?  I’m okay with that.  I have had a wonderful 9 days to relax and do the things that feed my soul.  I’ve written, read, talked with friends, and spent time with my husband and stepson.  I was mindful and present and I enjoyed every moment of my time off.  I can’t remember the last time that I felt that way about a vacation.  I actually feel recharged and motivated to go to work tomorrow.  (I know that is subject to change around 7:00 a.m. tomorrow morning, but hopefully it won’t.)

Today I am grateful…

…that I have had the last week to rest and refuel

…that I haven’t been stressed or had any anxiety for 9 days in a row

…that tomorrow I will get to see my friends at work and catch up

…that I have a job that I like most of the time and love some of the time

…that several coworkers kept up on some of my daily work while I was gone, so tomorrow won’t be as hectic as it would be otherwise

I’m off to bed early, so I’m ready for tomorrow.  Tonight, as I go to sleep, I will do so with serenity and a grateful heart.  I hope you will too.

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thankful-what

 

 

 

It is what it is

It is what it isUgh.  Today sucked.  A lot.  As I said in an earlier post, I have been feeling overwhelmed at work.  Today that overwhelming feeling got multiplied by a thousand, and a good amount of frustration was added in.  The story is a pretty boring one, typical behavior of any large company.  The corporate office made a decision to change some things around to make things better in the long run.  Sounds good, right?  But in the short run, it will be a HUGE amount of extra work, we’re talking lots of overtime, and very tedious, and most of the work will fall on my shoulders.  While the idea of all of the extra work causes me a fair bit of anxiety, that wasn’t what was so frustrating.  The thing that really got me was how the decision was communicated to the staff.  First of all, rumors about it started flying last week.  Then, yesterday there were conflicting stories of what was going to happen, depending on which manager you spoke to.  This morning, there was confirmation that the changes were not going to happen, it was business as usual.  So I spent my day accordingly – working to prepare things as I normally would.  At about 3:00 this afternoon, there was an announcement that the changes were going to take place after all!  So I wasted the whole day working on something that was ultimately going in the crapper.  I’m sorry, I know I’m rambling, but can you sense my frustration???

Needless to say, I was pretty grumpy.  And that got me to thinking.  What is it that I am so grumpy about?  Is it the changes that are coming?  Is it the extra work?  Am I trying to control something that I have no control over?  Why am I frustrated, and what am I going to do about it?  I never shy away from extra work, I’m a hard worker and deadlines don’t usually bother me, I always get the work done.  Now, I don’t love change, but I have gotten better about rolling with the punches.  It occured to me that I often react to these kinds of situations the same way.  I get worked up and anxious thinking about how awful things are going to be.  I freak out on the inside, while I act like everything is alright on the outside.  I worry, worry, worry in anticipation of whatever the crisis is.  Here’s the funny thing…when the real thing comes to pass, it is never as bad as I thought it was going to be.  Everything usually works out fine.  Hmm.  I know this.  I even have a tattoo that says “It is what it is” to remind me that there are  things that I can’t control, and that I have to accept them.  You would think that knowing all of that would keep me from becoming such a nutjob when things happen.

So what am I going to do about it?  I’m going to get up tomorrow, go to work, and do my job.  And I will do it again and again, and in a few weeks, the worst of it will be behind me and things will go back to normal.  I’m going to remind myself that this is not a major crisis, I’ve had those, I should know the difference!  The most important thing to remember is that it is what it is.  It will work out just the way that it’s supposed to.  And it’s a whole lot easier to face it with a smile and a good attitude than the alternative.