Grrrrggglll... Hear that? That's the sound of your stomach grumbling. It's 2pm, and you worked right through your lunch again. The only reason you noticed is because your eye is starting to twitch and your normally perfect grammar is slacking. You rush over to the kitchen and snack on some stale pretzels while you scavenge for something more substantial. Nuts, dried apricots, and seaweed... more pretzels it is! You head back to your desk with a handful of sodium and work through the twitch.

Sound familiar? You're probably suffering from skipped lunch syndrome. I don't mean simply ingesting food somewhere around midday — many people eat lunch at their desks. I'm talking about actually leaving your workspace and taking a break from work. If you're finding you just have too much on your plate to take a lunch out  (pun intended), you're not alone. Studies show only 1 in 5 people step away from their offices to take a lunch. And even fewer people use the full hour. These days, lunch breaks are seen more as a luxury than an office standard. Why? Answers can be found in our modern work structure:

  • The need to always be available
  • The office provides food, so there's no reason to go out
  • A fear of looking like you're abandoning your work
  • Too many meetings and calls scheduled around lunchtime

When you need to get a lot done, the first thing many people do is work through their lunch break. But the longer you're in the office, the more important it is to get out. Here are 7 reasons why you need that midday downtime:

1. Food gives you much-needed energy

Ok, this one is pretty obvious. But it is not always routinely practiced. Studies show that working really hard can physically wear you out, even if you're sitting at a desk all day. Working through your lunch might seem more productive at first, but your body and mind will quickly run out of fuel. Eating a well-balanced lunch can give you the necessary energy to finish your work for the day. Just steer clear of the infamous "food coma." Eating too much in the middle of the day can leave you feeling fatigued.

Tip: Eat your lunch away from your desk. Sit at a communal table, go to a nearby restaurant, or sit on the grass outside to clear your mind from work distractions.

2. Change of scenery helps you focus

Just walking outside or talking a quick stroll around the block can be the difference between a productive and unproductive afternoon. Forming good habits like taking regular breaks and getting some fresh air can improve your ability to focus.

Tip: Leave your phone behind to avoid taking calls or answering emails on your break. But - won't I be bored? You'd be surprised what boredom can do to replenish your mind and boost your creativity.

3. Exercise increases productivity

Even if it's just for 20 minutes, exercise is a great energy booster for that midday hiatus. It helps improve your mood, reduce stress, and even increases your metabolism. Going for a walk, bike ride, run, or just doing a few simple stretches can make a huge impact on your daily productivity.

Tip: If you're looking for a time to workout but don't want to go after work or wake up early, lunchtime is an excellent opportunity to squeeze in some activity.

4. Socializing with colleagues improves morale

Sure, you see your coworkers 40+ hours a week, but how much time do you spend talking to them about non-work related topics? Hanging out with your coworkers at lunch can be a great opportunity to get to know them and can give you the mental break you need to get through your day. Plus, studies show that having colleagues as friends has both short- and long-term benefits. They can make your job more enjoyable as well as provide emotional support and advice when you're having a rough day.

Tip: Invite a few colleagues to grab lunch, run errands, or even start a midday workout regimen together.

5. Checking your favorite websites improves mood

Although it's good to get outside, this one can be a nice break for when you're stuck inside. You might browse the internet throughout your day (maybe a little too much), but if you set aside time to do it in the middle of the day, you might be less tempted by it during the hours you need to be productive. Reserve this time to check out your favorite blogs, recipes, videos, and/or podcasts that aren't work related.

Tip: If you come across a non-work related article you want to read later, you should use the Wrike Chrome extension to quickly bookmark it.

6. Napping enhances memory

This is just a fancy way of saying take a nap (one of my favorite hobbies). If there's one thing I think everyone could get more of these days it's sleep — and your lunch hour is the perfect time to catch a few Zzzs. Grabbing a quick power nap is a great way to get some extra shut-eye and recharge your batteries for the rest of the day. Naps are also known to improve memory and help you retain information longer.

Tip: If you can't nap, try meditation. Visit a nearby park or even just reserve a quiet room in the office. This is a great alternative to help your mind relax and refocus on the second half of the day.

7. Having something to look forward to motivates you

This one can be left up to your creativity - try to think of an activity you would look forward to. Then use that to motivate yourself to work hard throughout the morning so you can enjoy your break without thinking about all the work you still have to get done. You'd be surprised how much more you can accomplish and how quickly the day goes by when you have a little midday break to look forward to!

Tip: Try to use the full hour. I know it's hard on days when you're swamped, but having the full hour to yourself can make a huge impact on your productivity for rest of the day.

What lunchtime activities help you get through your day?

Tell us how you do lunch in the comments!

Image credit: "GREATEST GENERATION ON LUNCH BREAK 1942" by Robert Huffstutter on Flickr
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