We all know we need more downtime in our lives. But between running your own business, a hectic work schedule, devoting your talents to a worthy charity and keeping up at home, there just doesn’t seem to be enough time! When your hours are this limited and life is intense, it’s crucial to build in some time to refresh. Here are 5 ways to make sure you are getting the very most out of your downtime:
It is well understood that regular breaks throughout the work day helps us to focus and accomplish more. The same is true on a larger scale. Vacation takers are more productive, focused and dedicated to their jobs, offering benefits to both the employer and the individual. To truly see these benefits, you need to disconnect from work emails and projects. If you must check-in, set a limited time once a day or every two days – and stick to it! You’ll come home rejuvenated and excited to get back at it.
- Go somewhere.
A break doesn’t always have to be a week-long vacation involving airports and customs. Sometimes just a night or two away from home is enough to get some rest and bring a fresh outlook on life. Try a road trip to a cute town a few hours away, a night out to dinner and a show in the city, or a retreat to a nearby quiet bed and breakfast or resort. As a bonus, you’ll keep costs down (less financial stress!) and you won’t have much to catch up on when you get back.
When things get busy, it’s easy to sideline the things that aren’t loudly demanding your attention. Maybe you’ve been meaning to catch up with an old friend for months now. Or you keep missing a favourite yoga class by working overtime. If you schedule these activities into your calendar, you’re much more likely to keep the commitment. Many gyms allow you to sign up for classes in advance, docking points or charging a fee if you don’t show. It’s a simple psychological hack that encourages accountability. So go ahead – make a date to meet your friend for a Saturday morning coffee or bootcamp class.
- Turn off your devices after 8pm.
The amount and type of light in your environment tells your body whether it is day or night, cueing the secretion of the appropriate hormones to make you alert or sleepy. In the evening, natural light is dim and has an orange hue, telling your body to produce melatonin to help you sleep and recharge. However, the light streaming out of your phone, TV, tablet and computer is on the blue spectrum. These devices send your body daytime signals, inhibiting melatonin and raising cortisol. Exposure to blue spectrum light at night can wreak havoc on your sleep schedule, leaving you tired and stressed, day in and day out.
What’s a gal to do? Set a “devices off” time, about 1-2 hours before bed. You’ll see significant improvements in your sleep and energy through the day. If you absolutely must use your electronics at night, consider downloading the application F.lux, which changes the light spectrum to a slightly orange hue at sunset, so your body knows it’s night-time.
- Read before bed.
A University of Sussex study in 2009 showed that reading has an unprecedented ability to help people relax. Allowing your imagination to run wild with a great novel is a great way to settle your heart rate, relax your muscles and slow down your breathing, all important to a good night’s sleep. Don’t forget that it’s best to avoid those blue spectrum lights – so pick up a real book, not your eReader.
Reading can also help your body prepare for sleep as part of a before-bed ritual. Not just for children, such a routine signals to your mind and body that it is time to wind down and sleep. With a clear association between the newest page turner and slumber, you’ll be drifting off in no time.