Didn't we used to eat lunch together?

Do you remember the last time you had lunch with your colleagues at work?  I remember once saying I would never eat lunch alone at my desk.  What happened?!!

I tried early on in my career as a nurse to work through lunch, since I had so much to do.  An older experienced nurse immediately pulled me aside and said, “I don’t care if you eat or not, but you’re getting off this floor for 30 minutes to clear your head.  You’ll be better for your patients when you return.”  I took her advice and tried to never again miss taking those 30 minutes at meal time, no matter what shift I was working, to leave the medical unit and clear my head.

When I began working in Pharma we frequently would head down to lunch together.  We would listen to each other and laugh a lot.  Phones were on our desks back upstairs attached to a wall.  And then about 10 years ago it seems that everything changed.  Many people began working remotely.  Our team had been reorganized twice.  And soon I was eating alone and checking out the news on my computer.

And then yet another shift took place several years ago.  I found that I was now grabbing food on the run and not checking out the news but working through lunch. I had no idea what my food tasted like and was just so busy working to get whatever it was done. 

Pause and Notice

I was once teaching a Mindful Eating one-hour class over lunch at work.  We sat there in silence eating together and I had everyone pause for a moment and notice.  “I never knew eating a carrot could be so relaxing,” is my favorite response from a busy director, because he was eating mindfully and not writing an email in his head or obsessing about something he did or did not say. 

When I first entered Pharma, the Vice President of my department met with me and said, “If I see you here late at night working, I will not see that as a good thing.  It will mean one of two things, ‘Either you need help because you’re having difficulty with your job, or we’re giving you too much work to do and your team isn’t adequately staffed.’  Either way, it will not be viewed as positive.”  She went on to say words that I’ll forever remember.  “This company may not even be here in five years, but your family and friends will be if you are there for them now.” 

In less than five years the company merged and was no longer there.

It is so very easy to focus on work and forget about our family and friends.  We are all so very busy.

Quick Practice Tip

If there is just one thing that teaching Mindfulness in workplaces has shown me, it is that you can become aware and make a shift in your daily habits right now.  Tomorrow never comes.  We will always be busy.  May I suggest you ask a colleague to lunch today, without your phone.  And pause and notice a few times…the taste of your food…the look in their eye…the sounds you hear around you.  Without judging it all as good or bad…just noticing.

Try making a new memory.  The work will be there when you return…it always is…and notice how you feel by taking that brief mental rest.

Photo by Ali Inay on Unsplash

Mindfulness is now being incorporated by companies to lower healthcare costs, support employees in staying focused which improves their productivity, and reduce levels of stress.

Harriet Stein of Big Toe in the Water brings Mindfulness Programs to companies of all sizes to transform employee productivity, engagement, and satisfaction.

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