In previous jobs, I worked through my lunchbreaks, eating at my desk when necessary; but I always resented it. I knew the importance of having a break from work. Leaving my desk and sometimes the office for lunch seemed like a good way to nourish and refresh my body and my mind.
When I first started out as a soloist, I loved the idea of working to my own agenda. I thought that managing my own time would bring balance to my life. I imagined myself drinking my morning cup of coffee while watching the birds in my backyard. I’d take my lunch down to the river and eat by the water. These simple pleasures would be part of my daily existence.
Instead what happened was I fell into the trap of thinking that I was far too busy to stop to eat. In a home office this can easily spiral out of control. Rather than relaxing with coffee in my backyard, I got into a habit of starting up the computer ‘to see if any urgent emails had come through’ before eating breakfast.
We all know what this means.
The birds sang outside unnoticed as I gulped my morning coffee while checking emails. Sometimes it was nearly lunchtime before I ate anything, by which time I was so hungry I’d stand in the kitchen and munch whatever instant food was at hand. I was working longer and longer hours with few or no breaks. My eyes were dry and tired, my concentration and performance affected by poor food choices resulting in blood sugar swings and a serious caffeine addiction.
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I wasn’t living my dream of better work/life balance – but I didn’t realise it.
And then I bought a tray of mangoes.
And I gorged on them. Cutting the two cheeks off and scoring them into little squares required my full attention. It was sticky and messy, so I sat outside and I couldn’t do anything else. At moments it was almost a form of meditation, as though time had slowed down and nothing else in the world existed except the mango and me.
An epiphany hit during one of these mango meditations. I thought that I should do this more often, eat something without doing something else at the same time. Then it dawned on me that since starting my own business, I rarely stopped and focused on what I was eating. Most of the time, when I was eating, I was working, reading, watching TV, even driving.
When we’re busy, eating can easily become just another thing for the to-do list. Yet it is one of the most pleasurable, and life-sustaining, things we do every day. As soloists, we don’t have an office culture of going out for lunch with workmates or everyone gathering for morning tea birthday cakes. So we need to create some of this culture for ourselves.
Notice how you interact with food throughout your working day. Ask yourself if you are treating yourself with as much respect in regard to regular breaks as you would expect to receive from another boss.
Since my epiphany, I now encourage myself to develop healthy eating habits. I stop working for meal breaks and I try to regularly leave my office to eat. Because of this, my work time is more productive and I’m feeling much healthier, in body and in mind.