Continuing the series
With this week’s topic “Never eat lunch at your desk if you can avoid it”.
Some of you may have noticed that I haven’t posted a blog for three weeks. Actually, some of you HAVE noticed because you emailed me to ask about it. Thank you for reaching out to check on me and make sure everything is alright. Hearing from you makes me happy for a couple reasons:
- It’s good to know that someone is actually READING what I write.
- Some of you, at least, like it enough to notice when I don’t post. All the analytics in the world don’t mean nearly as much as hearing from you. So thanks!
You Big Bang Theory fans will get the reference. Things are simultaneously OK and NOT OK at the same time in our household. Let me explain. This happened:
That’s my partner Karen. She fell off the attic ladder while handing me empty Christmas decoration boxes to put away and broke BOTH arms. This picture is in the emergency room, and a week later she had surgery on both arms. Needless to say, she has not been able to do much of anything herself, so I have been her stand-in arms.
We’re OK, but not OK
No one is any danger or terribly ill, but things HAVE been a bit hectic especially with the Holidays here, so that explains why I’ve not bee doing any writing. Or auditioning (much) or even really submitting for any roles. She’s come a long way since that photo was taken and is beginning to be able to do some small things for herself. Luckily casts come off Thursday, so I expect things to get even better (and closer to back to normal) soon!
Not a fan
Personally, I am not a fan of decorating for Christmas. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Christmas decorations…just not the decorating part (or the UN-decorating part). I am a fan of heading to Belize for Christmas where it’s 80 degrees and you can snorkel on Christmas day. I’m going to use this as an argument against decorating from now on.
Anyway…on to the real topic
Why is it important to never eat lunch at your desk if you can avoid it? There are actually several good reasons for this, but, first, the IDEA of doing that is not really universal. Here in the USA, it seems to be a pretty standard practice as we seem to have more than our fair share of workaholics here. I think we think that eating lunch at our desks increases productivity. NEWSFLASH: It actually reduces productivity!
Lunch breaks improve productivity
As humans, we have only so much psychic energy to expend in a day. Failing to take that lunch break continues to deplete that energy so that you wind up “burning out” earlier in the afternoon. Getting up from your desk (and work) gives your brain a much needed rest that allows it to recharge a bit and actually INCREASES productivity throughout the afternoon.
We all intuitively know, and many studies have proven, that stress is a killer. Stress in our lives, while not proven to cause heart attacks and strokes, have been proven to increase that risk when other factors are involved. No one sets out to “work themselves to death”, but that could, in fact, be what you are doing. Taking a break at lunch and changing your surroundings helps lower overall stress levels and can help you remain healthy.
Lowering overall stress levels also helps to improve cognition according to a study by the University of Maryland Medical Center. Studies indicate that regular stress can reduce glucose to your brain which reduces your brains energy source. Stress is bad for your brain, so taking that break improves brain function (beyond fatigue).
Did you know?
Until COVID hit, it was illegal in France to eat at your desk! Yes, failing to take a lunch break could lead to a fine. Seems weird, but apparently the French government understands the need for a break from work mid-day. Sadly, with the onset of COVID and many people working from home that law was rescinded.
Speaking of COVID
Now that people are working from home more often eating lunch at your desk is even MORE common. Not to mention longer hours overall, but that’s a different topic. Some of the peripheral effects of working from home include more access to food (I mean, your refrigerator is RIGHT THERE!) which means more frequent snacking and increased health risks due to weight gain. So, besides the mental health aspects of not taking a lunch break, eating at your desk (and snacking throughout the day) can lead to obesity and all the risks associated with that.
As voice artists, actors, and all types of performers, we are constantly hustling to book our next gig. There is a fear among us that we must be constantly hustling to find and secure that next role. Particularly people who rely on the next gig to pay bills and feed their families, the drive to just keep hustling can have us at our desks for many more hours than someone who works a 9-5 job. What people DON’T see or realize when they turn on NETFLIX and watch a show or movie is the hours and hours of marketing and networking that went into booking that role.
In the gig culture, we are typically either at our desks looking for gigs, corresponding with potential clients, editing/mastering audio and video for auditions or in front of the mic/camera recording those auditions. Add to that the time it takes to study a script and come up with a character (traits and mannerisms) and rehearsing/recording/filming once the gig is booked, and you’ll realize that, just for the actor, that 30 second radio spot is the culmination of hours of preparation and for a 90-minute movie WEEKS of preparation.
It can be exhausting
Most people only see the finished product and not all the work that goes into bringing that project to life. For independent talent, the motivation to just keep working is enormous. It appears taking a break could mean the difference between booking a gig or not booking it. And in some ways that can be true, but while you MAY miss one while on a break, an hour for lunch isn’t really going to make or break your ability to book gigs. For performers it is even MORE important to take that lunch break!
Beyond the health risks, working without a break leads to exhaustion which is going to negatively impact your ability to perform. If you’ve ever tried to remember lines when you’re exhausted (which is typical since filming days can go 12, 14 or 16 hours), you’ll realize that the lunch break may be the difference between a mediocre performance and an Oscar winning performance. The industry knows this as I have never been on a set that DIDN’T stop and take a real break for lunch (or dinner, or breakfast).
At the end of the day
Taking a real break to have lunch is good for your health, your mental ability, AND your performance. So: Never eat lunch at your desk if you can avoid it!