The Importance of Taking Meal Breaks While Attending Zoom University

Each week, I will contribute an article to my food column: College Cooking, where I will share recipes and opinions on food trends and culture. To see more of what I like to cook and bake, check out my personal food Instagram at @healthy_eclair.

When I am feeling stressed with work during the week, I will often make my lunch and then resume sitting in front of my laptop screen as I scroll, type, and scroll repeat. While I know it is better to eat your meals without distraction so you savor the taste, munch at a slower pace, and eat until you are satisfied, sometimes even taking fifteen to thirty minutes out of my day for a meal feels like too much––especially during finals season. Isn’t that a sad statement?

And the reality is, I am probably not the only student out there who attends Zoom University without break for six to eight hours each day, shoving oatmeal into their mouth in the morning and taking a bite into a turkey sandwich at lunchtime, all the while editing their essays. Not only am I more prone to feeling bloated after eating quickly, but not taking breaks throughout the day adds to my growing chronic Zoom fatigue. 

In high school, my guidance counselor would always remind us to make sure we ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner, even during our busiest week, because without energy from these meals we wouldn’t be able to go to class and do our work to the best of our ability. She stressed the importance of making sure we took time to eat, even if we were feeling stressed (no pun attended). While some students may lose their appetite when stressed or anxious due to exams, it is still necessary to feed your body “safe foods” which you know will not add to your discomfort.

That being said, during an era when classes are online and it is easy to remain in one location all day, I urge you to practice self-care (because yes, feeding your body healthy foods is an act of self-care) by preparing your meals and enjoying them not only away from your laptop, but even in a different location from where you do work or attend virtual class.

Return Refreshed & Nourished

After all, the physical and mental benefits of taking breaks will help you return to work with a refreshed mindset. Many scientific studies have shown that breaks help increase productivity and oftentimes lower anxiety, insomnia, and depression. Of course, the type of breaks you take correlate to how refreshed you will feel when you return to your laptop; this means that going on social media is not as productive as meditating or moving. That’s why even if you are feeling pressured with time, allowing yourself 30 minutes for each meal is the perfect way to refuel your body and reboot your motivation so that you can power through the remaining hours of class and work. 

Woman in bed Photo by Kinga Cichewicz from Unsplash

Fights Zoom Fatigue

While scrolling through Instagram may feel like the ideal mindless task to do during a break or while you eat, it is better to avoid screens during this time, especially now when classes are virtual. Stepping away from your laptop while you prepare and eat your meal is a great way to relieve eyestrain and body cramps from slouching over your keyboard all day. I find that when I focus on my meal or open a book I am reading for fun, these activities provide more relief than checking Instagram or Snapchat so that I feel more refreshed when I return to my homework afterward.

overhead shot of a desk with someone writing in a notebook and on a video call on a computer Photo by Julia M Cameron from Pexels

Snack Time & Break Time All in One

I am not saying that you shouldn’t take more breaks throughout the day. In an ideal world this would be the case, but during finals, it can often feel like you do not have time to do so. That’s why it is even more necessary to treat meal times as periods of rest where you can enjoy a meal, chat with friends or family, or read a book (not for class). Maybe even eat outside if you can for some fresh air! If you have more time one day, you could take an hour rather than a thirty-minute lunch break. 

If you need more convincing, here is a reminder that eating over your laptop will probably lead to a collection of crumbs collecting over your keyboard and maybe even layers of stickiness on each key. Especially during a pandemic, it’s important to practice good hygiene (and self-care).

Healthy Meals & Mental Health

Now in terms of what to eat for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, I am a strong believer in balanced meals and eating the foods which make you feel good. Especially during finals season, it is important to eat enough fruits, veggies, fats, and protein, but also enjoy comfort foods that will make you feel good. Whether it’s oatmeal, mac & cheese, or pizza with mushrooms, grab your plate and take a break (away from your computer).

bowl of macaroni Photo by Hermes Rivera from Unsplash

This article is a reminder to be easy on yourself and eat your meals even if you feel like you don’t have time. There is always enough time for food. Good luck with your finals camels!