Thursday, January 31, 2008

It's 3 pm: Did You Take Lunch Today?

Animal care professionals, who would never forget to feed the animals under their care, or would never even consider skipping an animal feeding because they were too busy with other things, are paradoxically particularly prone to skipping their own lunch break. I’m a former offender in this regard; I used to eat yogurt for lunch largely for its portability. I would jump from meeting to “crisis” to phone calls, carrying my little plastic container and swallowing spoonfuls of mixed berry between stops. Before we know it, this progresses from an occasional occurrence to an everyday one in which the idea of a lunch break becomes a distant memory, and skipping lunch or eating on the run becomes a bad habit.

A big part of how this happens relates to how we define the terms “urgent” and “emergency”. It’s so easy to categorize just about everything (except of course lunch) as a matter requiring our immediate attention. The client who needs some information; the employee who has a question or issue that needs to be dealt with; the animal who needs a cage change or a walk- all of these types of situations demand our attention, and our immediate response is that they need our attention now. But is this truly so? If we stop and think about it, most situations can be handled later, or someone else can take over for the time being. And in truth, taking the time for lunch restores and reenergizes us so that we are able to do our best work- and in the end, everyone benefits. If you are constantly running on empty, you will not be operating at the peak of your potential.

So, for all you lunch offenders (and you know who you are!) I call you today to take a small step. Start planning for a new habit in 2008: bring back lunch. Start with a baby step: if you’re a daily offender, start by committing to a fifteen or thirty minute break each day- or a full lunch break once a week. Work yourself up to a daily lunch break in which your goal is to nourish, restore and reenergize yourself.

And put this sign somewhere you can see it everyday:
It’s 3 pm: did you take lunch today?

-Liz Clancy

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