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11 Productive Ways To Spend Your Lunch Break

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Mar. 14 2018, Published 3:13 a.m. ET

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It’s only the halfway point in your workday and you are stressed. You could grab a sandwich, eat it at your desk and keep plugging away …

… Or you could give yourself a break and get rid of the stress to power through the rest of your afternoon.

The merits of a lunch break have long been discussed. Benefits range from a boost in productivity to a decrease in the likelihood of burnout. Use your lunch break to partake in one of the following 11 activities, known to fight that pressing office-type stress. You don’t have to dedicate hours to them midday, either. Just a 30- or 60-minute break is enough to give yourself a breather, have a bit of fun, tackle stress and have a bite to eat.

Find the one that best suits you and get ready to feel that stress subside as soon as noon rolls around.

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1. Lay Down

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Nap fans, rejoice. While you probably can’t take a snooze during your lunch hour, you can relax your body in a position that will release tension from muscles that gather after a morning spent sitting in a desk chair with bad posture. All you have to do is lie on your back, bend your knees, and keep your feet flat on the ground. The 10- to 20-minute rest will help diffuse tension out of your muscles. Practitioners have also reported that they feel more open and lithe afterward, too.

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2. Be Social

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One of the best ways to get rid of stress during your lunch break is to set up lunch with a friend or enjoying a cup of coffee with your colleagues’ post lunch. In general, having friends helps you to better cope with stress. Divulging what’s stressing you out can make you feel better all on its own, but your friend could offer some interesting and worthy solutions to your issues, which will provide even more relief.

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There are more reasons than one to go to lunch with your friend, though. By stepping out, making your own plans and chatting about something other than work, you’ll remember there’s more to your life than your nine-to-five, which will freshen your perspective. And the burst of energy you feel from being social with someone new or well-loved will help you power through ‘til clock-out time.

3. Go Work Out

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Working out is a great way to produce mood-boosting endorphins that will zap your stress. Since you have a limited time, try one of these quick-but-effective gym routines:

Do intervals on the treadmill

Take a 30-minute spin class

Lift weights

4. Colour — Yes, in a Colouring Book

Kids at heart around the world are currently cheering at the idea that an adult coloring book can be the answer to their stress, and it’s true. Since 1990, psychiatrists like Carl Jung prescribed coloring books to patients and now, they’re known to fight stress.

A good coloring session can boost your creativity, too, which is great news for just about all office workers, whether they’re drafting ad campaigns or important emails. Ultimately, it’s a fun activity you’ll look forward to making time for on your breaks.

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5. Try a Yoga Class

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There’s nothing quite so relaxing as getting your “ohm” on mid-day. Yoga poses help fatigue your muscles and give you an awesome jelly-like feeling that will have you floating through the rest of the day.

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6. Get Fresh Air

The magic of the outdoors is real, and you don’t have to be at, say, Yosemite National Park to experience it. Even if you simply grab a seat outside and eat your lunch as normal, you’ll get a boost of energy from breathing the outside air. If the sun’s out, you can say “hello” to serotonin, which your brain releases when you’re exposed to sunlight. A boost in serotonin will make you feel both focused and serene. What’s better than that in the workplace?

If you’re feeling extra stressed, try using your lunch break as an excuse to take a walk outdoors. It doesn’t matter if you’re just going around the block. Getting your blood flowing again and moving your limbs will certainly reawaken you. Exercising in nature — especially with a friend —makes you happier and more creative post-break.

7. Read a Book

Reading can help take you to another place and time, and make you forget all about that client meeting that didn’t go so great.

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8. Volunteer

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You can head outdoors with a purpose on an occasional lunch break, too. There are plenty of volunteer opportunities that will get you moving — and feeling — on a particularly stressful day. For example, by volunteering with a dog shelter, you will provide yourself with a seemingly endless supply of feel-good vibes. Volunteering makes you feel better on its face, but adding in the gratitude expressed by the dogs in need with which you’re playing and walking? Priceless. And, hey, you might just find a furry friend to bring home and further help you to de-stress.

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9. Listen to Music

A great song can lift your spirits in a flash. Try looking for an uplifting playlist on Spotify or tune into a workout music channel on Pandora, which features music with a fast beat.

10. Eat Brain Food

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Did you know certain foods can help lower your stress levels? Pack a brown bag from home filled with these options:

Whole-grain jam sandwich

Broccoli and ranch dressing

Nuts

11. Meditate

Sometimes a few minutes of calm can help turn your day around. You can use a guided meditation or just close your eyes and breathe deeply for a few minutes. You’ll gain a sense of calm you didn’t have before.

De-Stress, Be the Best!

Without as much stress on your mind, you’ll probably find it easier to conquer your daily to-do list and come out on top as a better, more efficient employee. More importantly, though, you’ll make it to the end of each workday feeling accomplished and pleased without the negative vibes you probably carried home with you before your foray into stress fighting.

Of course, no one can promise a completely stress-free work experience, but what you can do is use the resources you have to make yourself into a better, happier and more centered employee — as a professional, you will experience no better feeling than that.

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