When was the last time that you took a leisurely lunch break in the sun--lounging while you enjoy your food and a much needed break from work?  And when was the last time that you went out to lunch with co-workers--not for a working lunch or a lunch meeting, but as a break from work?

For many, lunch break has become a thing of the past as we use our lunch breaks as time to accomplish one more thing.  It is a time to run errands, respond to emails and texts, squeeze in a doctor's appointment, or to cross one more thing off of the to-do list.  The word "lunch" conjures up images of eating at your desk, or a harried trip to the pharmacy, not a relaxing break from the day.

So when I read this article, http://news.yahoo.com/happened-lunch-break-142218829.html indicating that I am not alone in this, I started to wonder, why we are all losing our lunch and what the ramifications of this are.

Why are we losing our lunches?

1) Flexibility in working hours.  Although flexibility in working hours is wonderful, it can also lead to lack of boundaries between work-life and personal time.  For people who do not clock in and out, but who are simply paid a salary, their value as a worker is judged not based on the number of hours worked, but on the amount of work achieved.  This means that you are only as valuable as your output. 

In the current economy, where companies are down-sizing, it becomes necessary for everyone to accomplish as much as possible in order to try to secure their position.  This often means working through lunch in order to accomplish one more task.  Further, as companies down-size, the responsibilities that were previously spread among 300 workers, may now be spread among 200 workers.  This means that each individual is expected to accomplish more now than they would have been previously. 

2) Two-income homes.  With the current economy, many households are now dual-income households, in which both individuals work outside of the home.  This means that there is less time to devote to the many household tasks and chores that are necessary and lunch becomes the time to accomplish these tasks.

3) Our attitude toward lunching has changed.  At one point a lunch break was considered a basic right and requirement of the day.  Now, if many of us told our bosses or coworkers that we were taking a lunch break, we would be greeted with disdain or a scoff about how "it must be nice" to be able to laze about.  Rather than lunch being seen as a necessity, it is now seen as a luxury.

4) Multi-tasking.  Have you ever made it through an entire day and not recalled whether you ate lunch or not?  I have and that is because I am usually working at my computer while eating.  This means that I am not focusing on what I am eating, and therefore not truly enjoying it.  Instead of really tasting my strawberry yogurt, I spoon it in robotically between writing emails.  Rather than viewing food as something to be enjoyed and savored, being a multi-tasker is now something to savor.

Taking Back Lunch

Lunch is important--as a break in the day and as a way to engage in self-care.  Breaks help to increase your productivity and efficiency.  So let's take back lunch!

Schedule lunch in your calendar just as you do your various appointments and meetings.  If you do not, the meetings and appointments are priorities and lunch sinks to the bottom of the priority list.

Use your lunch to take care of you, not to run errands or accomplish more.  Read a book, sit in the sun and savor the moment, or go for a walk.  Then return to your work day feeling refreshed.

About the Author

Amy Przeworski, Ph.D.

Amy Przeworski, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of psychology at Case Western Reserve University and specializes in anxiety disorders in children, adolescents, and adults.

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