In the last couple of months, many of us have had to adapt to working from home. Establish a routine, we were told. And now we all have them. Routines. Some involve just stepping from the bedroom into the living room. Some, helping kids with homework. Or walking the dog. Or watering the plants. Whatever we do, we do the same things every day. And then wake up the next day and do it all over again, with no end in sight. The constant repetition of the same old pattern that helped us get productive is now becoming a bit tiresome. A break would do us good. But what’s a person to do when you need a break and can’t go anywhere?
Taking a day off even while under stay-at-home orders may not initially strike you as making a lot of sense, but it may be exactly what you need. Here are some tips for recharging the batteries while staying put.
Making sure work doesn’t creep into vacation time can be difficult to do, but it’s especially important. While you may not be able to separate yourself physically from your work space, you can take steps to set a protective boundary around your leisure time.
Here’s how: If you can, catch up on pressing work items before you begin your time off—nagging items are tempting to address and they can create worry during a time when your mind needs a rest. Hand off work to your team so they don’t need to interrupt your “holiday” with questions, set your automatic email “away” message, and block out your calendar for the day. Let your team know you won’t be available. And stick to it.
Laundry? Dusting? Mopping? Chores always seem to be hanging around when you work from home. Yes, they all need to get done, but not on your day off. To truly rejuvenate and enjoy time off, spend as much time as possible doing whatever it is you’ve planned—don’t waste a minute of it doing chores.
Here’s how: If you can, find a way to work chores into your schedule during odd hours or unexpectedly freed-up time in the days preceding your vacation. If you can’t, then throw that big pile of laundry in a closet and turn a blind eye to dusty shelves and dirty floors…it will all be waiting for you when you’re back on duty!
When we first began our stay-at-home routines, many of us came up with resolutions, big and small. I’ll exercise more! Time to write that great American novel! Let’s spend more time in nature! But time has gone by, and—caught up in balancing the work and life routines—we may not have accomplished nearly as much as we’d have liked to by now. Sound familiar? Instead of seeking out new activities you’re not able to squeeze in, why not do more of what you are able to find the time for?
Here’s how: Instead of trying to figure out something novel and exciting to do, why not do the tried-and-true things you love, but just spend more time doing them.
Multitasking is a great way to get things done at work (or not, depending on who you ask). But multitasking can also make us exhausted, dissatisfied, or both. Focusing on one thing at a time can help calm the mind. So try to live your vacation day at a pace more conducive to a relaxing day at the beach, rather than a hectic day in the office.
Here’s how: The best thing you can do for yourself is to craft a simple plan for the day. Focus on only two or three things you want to experience during the day. Fight the urge to check things off your list (that defeats the purpose of trying to relax!) but do use your list as a guide.
You’ve been staring at the same four walls for days—okay, weeks. A little change to your surroundings could do you good and—if just for a while—make it seem like you’re not in Kansas anymore. If clicking your heels doesn’t work, a fun and painless way to change things up is to create a new experience in your space.
Here’s how: Think of something you can do to change up the ambiance, something that will make your place feel like, well, somewhere else. Throw a luau on your balcony, create a Moroccan palace in the family room, or a European café in the dining room. I know of a family who traveled to Costa Rica, which miraculously was located—for the day—on their upstairs floor. Build a fort with the kids (or your roommates) and hang out in it for the day. Go to Google Earth Street View and—via a large screen or a projector—visit virtual destinations around the world. Visit museums or art galleries through online virtual tours.
Social interaction and bonding are important for each of us as humans as well as society as a whole. Fill that need to socialize and interact in different ways than you’ve done so far. Let your imagination take charge and see where it leads you.
Here’s how: Finding things for kids and grownups to do together (and that can hold everyone’s interest) can be challenging. Here are some ideas that can keep everyone engaged:
Serving/helping others is part of our nature as social creatures. Volunteering can combat depression and alleviate anxiety and stress, among many other great benefits.
Here’s how: Cook a big batch of something you can individually package and share with others. And then walk around your neighborhood and give it away, particularly to people in need. Do you know a few people out of work and having a hard time? Dedicate one day to doing things for them. Before your day off, research other ways you can help your community and spend a day doing just that.
One day off during stressful times is just not enough. Plan ahead and schedule days off so you know that another day of rest is waiting for you just around the corner.
Here’s how: We all have a different cadence for time off—for some people, too much time off is stressful, and for others too little can be. Decide what kind of time-off schedule helps you de-stress and feel refreshed—one day at a time midweek for a break every couple of days, one day off tacked onto a weekend for a three-day break, or several days together bookended by weekends for a longer block of time—and then get those vacation days on the calendar. No matter what your preferences are, give yourself breaks as often as you can.
Even if you can’t take a day off, you can still enter the vacation mindset on the weekends. A couple of days in (mental) paradise can set us up for a much better week.
Here’s how: Prepare for the weekend as you would for a vacation. Be sure to insulate yourself from work and other chores. And commit to doing something different and stimulating so it feels special.
Sometimes when we have time off there’s this feeling of scarcity—of needing to do something worthwhile, something special, something with the family, something of service, something [fill in the blank]—with this limited, valuable time. But try to remember that time off is for you to recharge—in whatever way that means to you.
Here’s how: Just do whatever it is without guilt. Take that nap, binge-watch a show on Netflix, or sit in a chair staring at the beautiful blue sky. Do whatever you need to do to rest up, de-stress, and recharge. That’s what time off is all about.
The most important thing is that you do something that takes you away from your routine, an activity that keeps your mind connected to other things that matter to you outside of work. Come Monday, your commute from bedroom to computer will be much more enjoyable. You’ll have the extra energy to start the week with the same enthusiasm as if just back from Paris. Or Costa Rica.