Downtime is not a luxury—it is a vital requirement of mental, emotional, and physical health. I see clients everyday that are stressed-out and overloaded, and virtually in all cases, they are not taking any downtime during their days to rest and rejuvenate. The results of this are everything from sleep problems and dissatisfaction with life, to burnout and significant health problems. Some resort to alcohol or drugs to cope with the stress, which only ends up making things worse.
Instead of going this route, make having downtime in your day, everyday, a priority, as important as eating and sleeping. Our bodies are built to only take so much on each given day. We only have so much energy (mental and physical), and after we reach our body’s limit, we start running on fumes, and that is what leads us to get overwhelmed and stressed-out.
“But I don’t have the time to take a break,” I here many of my clients say, “My schedule is just too busy.” You have to make the time. If your schedule is too busy, then you have to either cut something out that is less important, or reduce the amount of time you spend on some of your activities. I have never worked with a client who wasn’t able to cut back somewhere to add in downtime. It all depends on how high a priority it is to you. If something is important enough, you will find the time. Taking breaks everyday should be that important.
Downtime can be taken in many different ways, so you can make it fit your schedule. You can take short breaks throughout the day, take a longer break at the end of the day, or, ideally, a combination of both. Just taking a 5-minute break during the day can make a huge difference in your stress level. Step outside, stretch your body, breathe in some fresh air, have a snack, joke around with a co-worker, it doesn’t matter, as long as you get a breather.
At night, it is important to have some downtime before you go to sleep in order to wind down and let the stress of the day dissipate (this will also help you get a better night’s sleep). It’s also important to do something relaxing that you really enjoy. You’ve earned it (assuming you are working hard). It can be anything you find relaxing and enjoyable: watching TV or a movie, meditating, taking a bath, listening to music, going out to dinner, reading, doing a crossword puzzle, doing nothing, playing with the dog, playing with your partner, knitting, painting, the possibilities are endless.
On the weekends, it’s also important to plan downtime. Take a day trip, go to the beach, play a sport, go to an art festival, get a massage, go kayaking, hang out with friends. Use this time to refuel and enjoy the free time you’ve earned from working so hard during the week. Your body and mind will love you for it, and you will be much happier, and productive, when you return to work.
(Originally appeared on Examiner.com)