AM Inspiration: The Lunch Break and Other Endangered Species

For many people, Friday is the end of the work week and sometimes the most hectic day as projects are wrapped up before the weekend. Continuing our "break" theme from yesterday, I wanted to visit a lesser-known corner of 20th century psychology, transactional analysis, as conceived by Dr. Eric Berne. Much of his book "Games People Play" seems as quaint as the author's trademark pipe to 21st century eyes. He talks a lot about the "housewife", that increasingly endangered species, and beyond the gender roles some of the theories seem a little pat. Going through life sniffing out games doesn't seem so nice somehow. But there are some nuggets of wisdom, one of them being the game called "Harried" (which apparently came in "Executive" and "Housewife" flavors):

"...She accepts all...demands...If she already feels harassed, she makes the day even more harried." Eventually the Harried person overloads herself to the point of collapse, often subjecting others to her own unreasonable standards along the way.

Now, I don't believe that any of us rush around collecting negativity and courting collapse on purpose.  Rather, it's all part of the swindle, the ever-disappearing carrot held in front of the noses of American workers in a culture that celebrates hard work more than leisure.  Many of us are so "harried" during the day that we don't even feel justified in taking a real lunch break. A study from Wales found that employees were taking less than 2 hours a week for lunch, often in the name of the elusive "getting ahead," a reward that rarely materialized. All those mealtimes spent emailing for work or pleasure, poor-quality food accepted because it is barely tasted, eyes still transfixed by the screen. It's worse yet for restaurant workers, many of whom eat on their feet and find smoke breaks are the only ones recognized by the management.

Taking breaks actually boosts productivity. NASA Pilots who take short naps during long flight operations had a 34% boost in performance and a 54% boost in alertness that lasted for 2-3 hrs compared to those who didn't nap. Napping may not be possible at the average workplace, but switching gears--changing your focus and your posture--can still help. Neuroscientists say that learning occurs not only during an experience but right afterwards--all the more reason to give yourself time to chew on that spreadsheet that won't work out right.

So if you can, take a real lunch break today, try not to be Harried, and take a moment to read this very understanding poem:

Poem For People That Are Understandably Too Busy To Read Poetry

by Stephen Dunn

Relax. This won't last long.

Or if it does, or if the lines

make you sleepy or bored,

give in to sleep, turn on

the T.V., deal the cards.

This poem is built to withstand such things.

Its feelings cannot be hurt.

They exist somewhere in the poet,

and I am far away.

Pick it up anytime.

Start it in the middle if you wish...

This is your poem and I know you're busy at the office or the kids are into your last nerve...

I'll be here when you want me

like the sound inside a shell.

The poem is saying that to you now.

But don't give anything for this poem.

It doesn't expect much. It will never say more

than listening can explain.

Just keep it in your attache case

or in your house. And if you're not asleep

by now, or bored beyond sense,

the poem wants you to laugh. Laugh at

yourself, laugh at this poem, at all poetry.

Come on:

Good. Now here's what poetry can do.

Imagine yourself a caterpillar.

There's an awful shrug and, suddenly,

You're beautiful for as long as you live.

Tags: Break, Lunch, Poetry, Rest, Wellness, Workplace

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