Growing up in Southern California I've been used to living in a hustle and bustle kind of environment. Since I was younger I remember my days consisting of waking up early, going to school, then coming home to start my homework or a lesson of some kind. Whether is was baton class, hula lessons, piano lessons, or some other kind of lesson, it was something. All this while still fitting in all of our meals and learning all the values and morals that my parents taught us daily. As I got older my days didn't get any simpler. The days still felt too short, from morning classes, night classes, to working full time, running errands, while still trying to fit in fun time with friends and family. It got so exhausting, I didn't even have time to process how tired I was.
When I went to work in Italy back in 2010, I realized how essential taking breaks were. Because I came from a life in Southern California, I couldn't imagine taking a break in the middle of the day to do nothing but eat lunch, rest and relax. Most of the people I've met while in Italy are such hard workers and take pride in doing good, going to work, and even having a job to begin with. But I realized from them how important it is to take a break. I know not ALL places close down all over Italy, but at least from what I have experienced in the smaller towns and cities, maybe less than a handful of places stay open and everyone actually leaves to take a break. For different establishments the times may vary, but for the most part everything is closed between 1pm to about 3pm; this includes restaurants, cafés, banks, grocery stores, and pretty much every other business. This means during these times, you go home to your family, have lunch, rest, relax, play, have family time, etc.. Maybe you might go to that one café that is open, to sit, relax, have an espresso and just rest, but you didn't use your break time to keep working, to run errands or as time to travel to your next chore.
Living in Italy this time with my husband, I absolutely LOVED this time of the day. I loved the feeling that I got every time he came home. Unless he had to work in a different city a little farther away, we got to have lunch together and have our time together between all the distractions of life. And those times he couldn't come home I knew I didn't have to think about running errands or anything. I think that even if I was by myself, the atmosphere changed knowing that I'm deserving of this time to rest, play and relax.
I really encourage you to take a break in the middle of your day. Take some time to really eat and enjoy your lunch, rest, relax, play, etc., anything to take you away and distract you from what you're doing or what you feel you need to get done. It can really set the tone of how the rest of your day goes. I know I can choose to rush through lunch or work through those hours to get out faster, but try actually taking a break during your break times, all work and distractions left behind; I think it will make a difference on the rest of your day. I know sometimes it doesn't feel like there is enough hours in a day to do this without being stressed out, or worrying that you didn't get everything done, but there is enough time if you give yourself that time.
Try it out, even if it isn't every day...but make a conscious effort to take a real break in your day, we all need it.
-Rubi Anne Dijamco Agostini