How to Get the Most Out of Your Next Staycation
Everyone needs the occasional break from work. Working continuously without a vacation or periodic “mental health days off” can lead to poor long-term health outcomes, not to mention reduce your work performance over time. On the flipside, there’s credible evidence that workers who are afforded and take advantage of periodic vacations enjoy less stress and are more successful at work upon return.
However, with the federal government, as well as many state governments, encouraging individuals to stay home and social distance, resorts and cruises are probably out of the question. In fact, many conventional vacation plans are no longer an option, given outbreaks, post-travel quarantine orders, and limited flight availability.
And even pre-COVID-19, you may not have the money to spend on an extended vacation. Or perhaps you’re so mentally drained that just the thought of planning a vacation is mentally exhausting (I've definitely been there, done that). Or perhaps you need to stay local as there’s a high likelihood a professional or personal emergency may occur when you plan to take time off.
Whatever the reason, your next vacation will be a staycation. Here are some tips from a recovering workaholic to make the most of your next staycation - to use your time off in a manner most likely to allow you to return to work renewed and refreshed.
Develop a staycation plan
If you need to laze about and do absolutely nothing on day one, that’s understandable. But subsequent days should include some activities that take you out of the mindset you are in at work. It will be easier if you start with a plan. Having a plan will also help you identify personal tasks that you perhaps need to do now that your dates are free and get them out of the way early on. Don’t try to take on too many of those, or you’ll feel like you’re right back at work. Make sure your plan is flexible enough to allow for spontaneity...and random naps.
Work on some small projects
Given the collaborative nature of some desk job work, sometimes it’s easy to feel like you’re not getting anything done. You may be waiting for others to add their feedback or approval, or for decisions to be made in other parts of the organization for you to be able to move forward. Some Fridays you may log off and wonder whether your efforts meant much of anything at all, especially if all you did was work on ongoing projects.
If this is the case, then plan to complete a few tasks over the course of your staycation. Make a short list of tasks, each of which you can complete in a couple of hours, or no more than a day at most. Then get to work. Cross each item off your list as you finish it. The pride you’ll feel in completing projects can help renew your confidence and drive to get things done upon your return to work.
Limit Internet and screen time
Binge-watching streaming content is a nightly ritual for many of us. And if we’re not watching something, we’re going down the rabbit hole of Facebook and news notifications, texting, playing mobile games, or otherwise on our phones.
On your staycation, limit your screen time, especially if you work at home. It’s harder to shake off the work-related fatigue you feel if a significant part of that fatigue was a result of too many Zoom videoconferences and shared Google Docs. Plus, limiting screen time at night (in fact, turning them off entirely at least an hour before bed), can dramatically improve sleep quality. And quality sleep will definitely help you feel refreshed.
Be physically active
By physical activity, I don’t necessarily mean high-intensity interval training or rigorous Crossfit routines. But you shouldn’t spend every day lying on the couch binge-watching Netflix (that’s bad for you anyway). Physical activity can include fitness, but it can also include anything from gardening to doing home repairs to hiking. Try to establish a certain amount of physical activity you do each day (at least 30 minutes a day) for the best results.
Physical activity forces us to be present. The kind of mental fatigue that comes from information overload, back-to-back meetings, and multiple deadlines, is hard to replicate when you’re bench pressing a barbell or drilling a hole in the wall. Exercise, DIY projects, and other similar activities force you to focus on a single thing, because if you don’t, you may be in danger.
And that singular focus itself is a key component of the practice of mindfulness, which can help improve focus and emotional control, as well as reduces stress and anger. Mindfulness is commonly associated with meditation, but there are many links between the practice and physical activity
Break some bad habits
For me, practicing poor sleep hygiene habits is the first bad habit I fall into when I’m under significant stress at work. I work late. Even when I don’t work late, I stay up later than I should, preoccupied with work. I check my email and texts late at night. And I wake up groggy in the morning.
Perhaps you picked up some bad habits in the days leading up to your staycation. Too many cups of coffee, perhaps, or too much fast food. Resolve to break those habits during your staycation and get yourself back on an even keel. It’s better to be able to go back to work with a clear head, free of those bad habits.
Meet some new people
Strike up conversations with neighbors you see sitting on the porch or join a Meetup Group. New people can take you staycation in new, unplanned, and diverting directions. And an adventure could be just what you need to recharge your batteries.
Read a book - or several
As a writer, I’m generally a strong proponent of reading. It’s one of the most relaxing and diverting things you can do. I’m fairly biased against e-readers, and would recommend you spend some of your time reading a physical book. Besides being relaxing, reading can help reduce your stress, reverse cognitive decline, and improve your focus over time, all of which can be helpful when you return to work.
Do something you haven’t done before
You might naturally assume it’s easier to get out of your comfort zone when you’ve traveled to an unfamiliar vacation destination. However, it’s just as easy to find something new to do that you haven’t done before in your neighborhood, or even online. No, I’m not talking about watching a new show on television. Take a class, visit a new restaurant (safely of course), or visit a monument.
What do you typically do on your staycations the most?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Christopher Hundley