You’ve taken a day — or more — off as a reset. What now? In this Everyday Health article, Mindpath Health’s Leela Magavi, MD, provides tips for how to maximize that time.
Do you come back feeling more refreshed and energized after taking time off, whether it’s a weekend or an extended vacation? Do you spend time away from work or other day-to-day roles you fill focusing on taking care of you?
Survey data collected since the start of the pandemic suggests people increasingly report they want their time off to be restorative and spent in ways that promote well-being.
A 2021 trend report from American Express found that more than two-thirds of people said their mental health has been impacted by the pandemic. That has inspired 66% of them to spend more money on items or experiences that help with overall mental wellness, including travel; and 76% of those surveyed agree they want to spend more on travel that improves their well-being.
For a lot of people, our work and nonwork routines shifted dramatically during the pandemic. And for many, being less busy led them to question the value of “hustle culture,” says Leela Magavi, MD, a psychiatrist and the regional medical director of Mindpath Health.
Here’s what Dr. Magavi and other experts suggest to keep your time off truly restorative.
1. Plan to not let work (or other disruptions) butt in
Have you ever been in that situation where you can’t enjoy time off because you’re too stressed about what’s happening back at work or at home (if you’re away)?
Alert colleagues before you’ll be away, so they can get in touch ahead of time if they expect to need anything from you during that time. Do it a few days ahead of when you’ll actually be out so that you don’t get slammed with a bunch of questions right when you’re trying to power down and start your time off. Answer lingering personal emails and pay the bills ahead of time, too, so you don’t find yourself having to deal with those things when you’re in “away” mode.
Schedule extra time just before you’re away to deal with anything that arises at the last minute and tie up loose ends.
2. Keep (at least part of) your time off errand- and chore-free
Especially if you tend to keep a mountainous to-do list, a day off from work might be a tempting time for catching up on other chores, like doing the laundry, grocery shopping, or catching up on email.
At some point you’re going to have to spend some of your non-working waking hours doing the laundry and filing your taxes, focusing all your free time on chores and being productive can put you right back in work mode. We sometimes have the tendency to check out emotionally when we do chores. You may go into let’s-just-get-through-this mode until the task is done rather than really enjoying yourself. Time off is to be truly present with yourself.
3. Make plans to do exactly what you want to do
You don’t need to map out every minute of your time off, but think ahead about how you’ll spend your time so you can make the most of it, says Hannah Paull, PsyD.
Or don’t plan. Instead, try setting aside part of your time off to just do exactly what you want to do when that time comes; maybe it’s going for a walk, curling up on the couch with a book, or making yourself a gourmet breakfast.
4. Listen to your body
Whether your body needs a break from an intense exercise regimen, or it needs more movement after a lot of sedentary time, or it’s feeling beat up after chasing young kids around the house and running errands, your time off is a great time to listen to those needs. After all, feeling good physically is kind of fundamental to health and well-being, right?
Don’t discount the effect that taking care of your body’s physical needs (be it a restorative yoga class, a long walk, or an intense HIIT workout) can have on mood.
5. Make time for activities you know bring you joy
Think about activities, pastimes, or hobbies you’ve enjoyed in the past and do them. Play a game you love, garden, or stroll through a museum. Or turn back to childhood pleasures like reading comic books, riding your bike around the neighborhood, coloring, or doing other arts and crafts projects.
Read the full Everyday Health article with sources here.
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