Doctor – take care of yourself! The importance of taking breaks and time to eat during work hours

Doctor, Take Care of Yourself!
by: Fidel Castillo, MD, MOLA Board member

It is important to eat regular meals to ensure your body gets the energy it needs to perform. To prevent big hunger pangs between meals and overindulging at main meal times, spread your food intake over five to six smaller meals and snacks, rather than eating three large main meals a day.

Of all the ways to use your lunch break to set yourself up for a great afternoon, the most important might be, well, actually taking a break.

In many industries, lunch breaks are getting shorter and shorter, or even nonexistent. These days, only one in five office workers reports taking an actual lunch break away from their desk, according to a survey by workplace consulting group Right Management. Yet taking a break, even for 15 to 20 minutes, is a proven way to sustain concentration and energy levels throughout the day. All the little tasks and decisions we have to make every day as we work gradually deplete our psychological resources. The same phenomenon is also noted in the medical field, so often I see young doctors, medical students, residents, and attending physicians not taking the time to take care of wellness during long clinic days and shifts.

Taking a lunch break, or even multiple short breaks throughout the day, provides an opportunity for our brains to recuperate. “Never taking a break from very careful thought work actually reduces your ability to be creative,” says Kimberly Elsbach, a management professor at UC-Davis who studies the psychology of the workplace. It sort of exhausts your cognitive capacity and you’re not able to make the creative connections you can if your brain is more rested. If you’re skipping lunch to continue to push forward in a very intense cognitive capacity, then you’re probably not doing yourself any favors.”

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