Here’s the situation: You’ve been working long hours and attending pointless ZOOM meetings for weeks on end. Your workload continues to pile up, deadlines are getting tighter and you’re stressed to the max. Oh, not to mention, you’re also trying to survive a pandemic.
You’re burnt out and utterly exhausted. In other words, you desperately need a vacation – a mental vacation.
But maybe you don’t have the time, the money or the means to jet off on some far-flung vacation. In that case, why not give yourself permission to take a mental vacation instead?
A mental vacation is simply a mini-break where you hit the pause button and take care of yourself. It’s a cost-free way to carve out a little time for yourself so you can recharge your depleted batteries, lower your stress, and improve your emotional well-being.
7 ways to take a mental vacation
So, how does one take a mental vacation? Here are seven suggestions to help you get back to a happier, more productive state.
1. Take a Brisk Walk
Feeling frustrated and unproductive? Step away from your desk and go for a walk.
Not only can walking improve your physical health, but it can also boost brain function as well. According to a 2010 study published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, walking for 40 minutes three times a week can enhance brain connectivity, decrease the effects of aging on the brain, and increase cognitive performance.
To maximize the mental health benefits, take a stroll in a quiet park (don’t forget your mask!). Being surrounded by nature will make you feel more relaxed, happier, and less stressed.
2. Disconnect from Digital Devices
When you take a “real” vacation with your family, you probably aren’t checking your work email or constantly scrolling through your Instagram newsfeed, right? Of course not! Vacations are all about escaping from the daily grind, and mental vacations are no different.
Give yourself a true break by turning off all push notifications on your phone for a short while. Let your friends, family, and coworkers know what you’re doing to ensure that expectations are set. Then sit back and enjoy your brief, digital detox.
3. Practice Basic Self-Care
Have you been so busy lately taking care of everyone else that you forgot to take care of your own basic needs? It happens to the best of us.
Practicing a little basic hygiene and grooming can a long way toward restoring your confidence and making you feel good about yourself. For instance, are your eyebrows looking a bit bushy? Pick up some tweezers and learn how to trim your eyebrows the right way.
Do you keep breaking out? Find your way back to clear your skin by getting on a simple skincare routine. The small effort you put into your appearance will feel good. The amazing results will feel even better.
4. Work on Personal Projects
You know that personal project you’ve been putting off for ages? Now is a great time to get back into it. Whether it’s woodworking, crocheting, painting, or a home improvement project, unleashing your creativity outside of work is a super-effective form of stress relief.
Creative hobbies can also help boost your work performance. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology found that employees who pursued creative activities outside of work had higher performance-related outcomes.
5. Visualize Your Dream Vacation
Visualizing your vacation is a surprisingly effective stress-reliever. Just get into a comfortable spot, close your eyes, and imagine your dream vacation spot.
If you need help getting into your vacation fantasy, try incorporating different senses: sight, sound, touch, etc. For instance, you could smell some sunscreen and listen to the sounds of crashing waves to imagine a beach getaway.
Though it may sound a little hokey, give it a try and see what happens. You might be surprised at how much calmer and happier you feel afterward.
6. Schedule a Mental Health Day
Mental health day, self-care day, me-day—whatever you want to call it, taking the occasional day off to recharge is plain necessary. Scheduling a mental health day allows you to practice self-care, restore your batteries and come back to work feeling your best.
The biggest obstacle is probably your own guilt. If you feel guilty about taking days off, remind yourself that self-care is a basic need and that everyone benefits when you take better care of yourself.
Give yourself permission to spend a day doing all the things you want to do. You’ve earned it!
7. Get Lost in a Book
Looking for a healthy escape? Just head to your local library and get lost in a good book.
Whether you’re a fan of high-fantasy or a sucker for a good romance novel, a good book can instantly transport you to a completely different world. Reading is also a low-cost activity. Simply pay for a library card and you’re all set.
Reading can make you a better person, too. According to a 2015 study published in Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, reading fiction can make you better at social cognition.
Put another way, you’ll be better at figuring out the emotions and thought processes of other people.
Unwind and Reset
Taking a regular mental vacation is necessary for your mental health. It doesn’t matter whether you have a “real” vacation planned or not.
Unlike actual vacations, a mental vacation doesn’t require you to physically go anywhere. It also doesn’t need to cost a penny! With these ideas, you can recharge your batteries and get back to your happy place once again.