academic reorganization · good things · mental health

Fifteen minutes a day; or, what’s in your lunch bag?

I’ve noticed that women, feminists, activists, and empathetic humans in general have a tendency to periodically feel responsible for the world. There are so many things that need solving, addressing, unpacking, intervening, and aid. While we can’t turn our eyes away from the hard work that has to be done on a local and global basis… sometimes it is useful and important to focus on the basics that keep us healthy, energetic, and maybe, just maybe, a little bit happy.

March is a difficult month for those of us working in the Canadian academy. Reading week is long gone. Midterm exams and papers are piled up on desks waiting to be marked. Students are tired and stressed. Professors and administrators are tired and stressed. Any day now folks will start to hear the results of funding competitions and it may well still be snowing wherever you are. It can be easy to forget to take care of oneself. In that same vein, it can be strangely comforting to fall into a routine where your own needs fall right out of your line of vision. Or is this another case where it is just me? In a recent telephone conversation with my wise father (who is no stranger to stressful work environments) he said something that really resonated with me. “Make sure you take fifteen minutes a day for yourself,” he said. “No matter what, give yourself fifteen solid minutes a day just for you.” His reasoning was that it is nigh impossible to really take on tasks–big, small, or middling–if you’re running on empty.

Hmm. Sounds easy, huh? It even sounds like advice I should already know to take. But where can one find the time? Well, in the name of self preservation, good will, and good nosh, I want to suggest that lunch might be one wee little space to carve out some time to refresh your spirit (or at least please your tum!)

Frankly, I’m terrible at taking time for myself, even something as small as a lunch break seems like an indulgence. I eat hunkered over my computer or student papers trying desperately not to spill my food on either. And Aimée has written about how finding the time to pack a lunch can be emotionally and temporally taxing. So perhaps lunch is simply a state of mind–the resolution to take a quarter of an hour away from the computer, or perhaps at the computer reading a beautiful food blog or looking at other people’s lunches. Or maybe lunch can be time to get up from your desk and take a walk outside or visit with a friend.

And perhaps, if you’re lucky, lunch can be about unpacking something special you’ve made/bought for yourself. My dear friend M. writes a terribly witty blog about the importance–and challenge–of packing a lunch. She even offers some suggestions for easy lunches on the go. If you like to dabble in cooking (gosh, I do) but feel pressed for time (gosh, I do) I have to recommend the wonderful recipes over at the Post Punk Kitchen. They are swift, fresh, and usually make more than enough to save pretty leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch.

Usually my noontime fare is unpacked at 2pm between lectures and gobbled down between student meetings, but this week I’m going to try to carve out a little more time for myself, and lunch will be my excuse.

Take care of yourselves, dear readers, and don’t forget to take a break! Maybe you can even take a quarter of an hour to share lunchtime with a colleague. Oh yes, and if you have a moment, let me know what you’re eating. I like reading about food almost as much as I like ingesting it.

8 thoughts on “Fifteen minutes a day; or, what’s in your lunch bag?

  1. A well timed post, Erin. Thanks for the always necessary reminder. My lunch will, sadly, only be cheese and crackers (I've never mastered lunches), but I'm currently enjoying home made oatmeal with raisins, cranberries, brown sugar, and cream. Yum!


  2. Taking a lunch break is an excellent suggestion. Walking to somewhere else on campus, sitting down and eating and then walking back can be helpful. Our mother's were right: fresh air is a good idea. And moving around, even just enough to walk to the coffee shop to get a coffee to go with that packed lunch, will make a big difference to the energy available for all that marking.


  3. Fresh air + a walk around the block!

    I'm heading out of the office in an hour to do just that, JoVE!

    SC & Mia: though I have a lovely lunch of quinoa/beans/kale (jumbled together in a bowl) I've still eaten most of it at my computer… One day at a time I suppose!

    & Mia: happy lunchweek indeed!


  4. my lab generally times our lunches to eat together. It's fortunate that we have a nice conference room to get together and chat over our food (mostly brought from home). So I'd definitely also recommend eating with a friend or colleague.


  5. Mmm. I love talking about food. As a vegan and a woman I have some challenges to overcome when it comes to cooking. I work super hard all month to make sure I get enough iron only to lose it all when my period comes. Low iron levels leave me feeling lethargic and weak and I have come to dread the feeling. However, I have become quite adept at making epic sandwiches that are fulfilling, nutritious and exciting to devour when lunch time arrives. These involve: dense, nut and seed filled whole wheat bread (protein and fibre) with hummus on one slice instead of mayo (protein), thinly sliced tofu (protein) that has been cooked with nutritional yeast (high in B12) and flaxseed oil (Omega 3), raw spinach (iron), slices of red or yellow pepper (vitamins C and A), avocado (vitamin K, fibre, folate and potassium) and finally home-made re-fried black bean spread (more protein and cholesterol-lowering fiber) on the other slice. It gives more energy than caffeine and it's tasty as. I love supper sandwiches!


  6. I am sensing a strong vegan presence on this blog. Lunch today is Isa-of-the-PPK's eggplant lentil chili mole and a guaranteed 15 minutes browsing through the archives of Bonzai Aphrodite, my favorite vegan-feminist-eco-DIY blog (make my own vegan yogurt from scratch using a heating blanket? absolutely never going to happen, but I can DREAM… and then get back to marking…)


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