Sometimes you just need a break. It’s been a crazy week at the office. Or your kid came down with the latest creeping crud and kept you up all night for the past three days. Maybe you just need some time out so you can hear yourself think over the din of competing anxieties.
When you need to get away for a while, but can’t afford the time or money for a real vacation, consider taking a mini-vacation or three. They’re quick, easy and, best of all, cheap ways to give your body and soul a rest without breaking the bank or pulling you away from life long enough to let it pile up.
1. Take a class. Sign up for a continuing ed or other short-run class to learn about something you love. Whether it’s landscape painting, a historical lecture series or a new meditation technique, taking a class usually costs less than a decent night out and only takes a few hours a week. The key is that while you’re in the class, really be in the class. Don’t get sidetracked worrying about tomorrow’s meeting or dreaming up worst-case scenarios for next week’s presentation. Surrender yourself to enjoying your time out and then worry about tomorrow when it gets here.
2. Take a meditation break. Take 15 minutes or so, find a quiet and relaxing place where you won’t be disturbed and meditate your stress away. Book yourself into a “meeting” if you have to, in order to get away. If you don’t have access to a quiet spot for seated meditation, consider doing a walking meditation. Find a pathway or even a route around the building and focus on your steps and breath, rather than the scenery. A set of visible earbuds or headphones (sans music) will help block out extraneous noise, as well as prevent people from interrupting you.
3. Go wild. Take a “nature break” and go for a walk in a park, garden, public greenspace or other natural area. While you’re there, slow down and really focus on the flora and fauna. You’re not there to work out, you’re there to relax and get away for a bit.
4. Book yourself. Take an hour or so and get lost in a bookstore or library. Pick up and read all sorts of magazines or books that you wouldn’t normally look at – or spend some time with a few “old friends.” If the book store has a coffee shop or café, grab a soothing tea and chill out in a sunbeam or comfy chair with an interesting book.
5. Go audio. While you’re at the bookstore or library, grab an audio book or three. The next time you need a break, slip on your headphones and disappear into a new or favorite book. Choose titles specifically to take you away from your world – no business books or family dramas. Instead, go for high culture, swashbuckling adventure or hysterical fun, and don’t worry about “improving your mind.” Remember, this is a break, not an exercise in academics.
We all need a break sometimes. It’s just human nature. Don’t feel guilty about taking the time you need for yourself. In fact, doing so is a vital component in preventing total collapse, according to Wilmar Shaufeli, a Dutch researcher on burnout who describes the condition as, “A mismatch between effort and recovery.”
So the next time you feel the frazzle creeping up on you, haul out your calendar, block out some time and take a mini-vacation. Your body (as well as your family and coworkers) will thank you.