Americans are working harder than ever. Some workers toil nine to 10 hours each day, sometimes without any breaks.

Does this sound like you? Breaks, especially lunch breaks, are vital to being successful on the job. You may be thinking you don't have time for a lunch break in your busy day. In actuality, breaks help workers forge ahead with a higher rate of productivity.

"Taking a lunch break ensures that you will be able to face an afternoon full of work with renewed energy and confidence," said Dr. John Murphy, family physician at Mayo Clinic Health System.

Throughout a morning of hard work, your body accumulates many needs and hungers that must be addressed by lunchtime in order to continue work in the afternoon. The obvious need is a physical one that can only be fulfilled by food. Light and low-fat meals that include whole grains, fruits and vegetables are recommended to fuel your body and keep you from craving an afternoon nap. Drinking water also leaves you refreshed and helps fight drowsiness.

In addition to meeting physical needs, your lunch break is time to rejuvenate your mind and spirit. It's important to take time away from your blurred computer screen and stiff desk chair in order to concentrate on and complete your afternoon tasks.

Here are a few examples of how to get the most out of your next lunch break:

Take a brisk walk

Read an entertaining book or magazine

Go shopping

Call a friend


Listen to your favorite music

If you do find yourself in an afternoon slump, Murphy has the following suggestions to get you back on track:

Take five energizing deep breaths

Drink a glass of cold water or soothing herbal tea

Get up and take a walk around the office to get the blood flowing

If you've been staring at your computer for an extended period of time, look out the window or at another object for a few seconds

Eat a piece of fruit or crunchy vegetables — nutritious snacks are part of a healthy diet


Do some basic stretching in your workspace

Close your eyes for a few minutes and imagine your ideal vacation

Change up your afternoon routine — make sure you have a mixture of active and inactive tasks to keep your brain and body working

Take time to do work tasks away from your desk, in a new setting

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