The Simple Solace of a Lunch Hour

July 26, 2011
Jennifer Frank, MD

Last Friday ... I decided to do something pretty crazy, something I normally would never do: I took a lunch hour.

Last Friday, I was feeling a little cabin fever. It had been a terribly hot week, making it uncomfortable to be outside. Friday was still hot but with a breeze. I was going to be on call all weekend. I had finished patient care, unexpectedly, on time. Therefore, I decided to do something pretty crazy, something I normally would never do: I took a lunch hour.

Don’t get me wrong. I eat lunch every day and several snacks as well. However, it is almost always done while I am sitting at my desk completing charts, reading a journal article, or finishing a presentation or paper. When I first switched jobs seven months ago, I made a commitment to walk down the hall to the break room every day and sit at the table with my coworkers to eat lunch. That lasted for about 3 days. I got bored with just sitting and eating. I ran out of things to talk about. I itched to get back to my office and get something done.

But, last Friday, despite having work I could be doing, I decided to take a ride down the road and treat myself to an ice cream sundae while I read a book (for pleasure) at an outside table. I felt guilty doing it. I wondered if a patient or co-worker would see me lollygagging during the work day. Throwing caution to the wind, I persisted in my plan and spent a full 30 minutes in the bright July sunshine.

Thinking about this, I realize one thing. It is pathetic that I feel guilty stepping away from my desk to eat lunch or feel like taking a lunch break was some type of rare treat. It makes me think of so many things that I know I should be doing but don’t. I’m not exactly sure why I don’t exercise every day, go to bed on time, spend more time talking to friends on the phone, or eat lunch away from my desk. I know it’s good for me to do all these things. I know that I will feel better if I do them. I know that it is unhealthy to not do these things. I know if I was my own patient, I would counsel myself to do these things. But, still, I often fail to do the very things I know will help me to minimize stress and stay well.

So, if you’re like me, spilling sandwich crumbs on your lap as you eat with one hand and type with the other, try something wild and daring this week - go enjoy your lunch.

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