It’s ironic. As Americans, we often say we’re overworked, we desperately need more time off, yet many of us accrue PTO like avid coin collectors but we don’t seem to take the time for ourselves when we really need it. And, adding insult to injury, when we finally can take a hard earned respite from our work, sometimes we’re simply too exhausted or financially drained to go anywhere.
According to the most recent numbers provided by Project:Time Off, 55 percent of already under-vacationed Americans left a total 658 million vacation days unused in 2016. Why didn’t they take a break?
Here are some of the reasons:
58 percent of American employees believe that America’s work culture stresses productivity over personal balance. The thing is, though, taking time to reboot is just as important as getting eight hours of sleep.
What's the point of being a gluten-free, vegan, yoga doing, juice cleansing afficianado if you never take the time to deeply rest? Not taking a break really defeats the purpose of intended healthy living. Human beings are not work machines; we all need rest. Sometimes that rest means just staying home and relaxing. Getting on a plane, staying in a hotel and dining out for a week can not only be really costly, it’s often not all that relaxing either.
As we've all heard people mutter at the end of a long trip: ‘I feel like I need a vacation from my vacation.’
With that in mind, here are some guidelines to help you take a great staycation and get back to work more refreshed and rejuvenated than ever.
DON’T WORK. AT ALL. If you’re worried that you won’t be able to disengage from work because your coworkers know you’re close by, make sure you officially set expectations and boundaries. You are simply won't be available. Shut down your laptop and remove your work emails from your phone (you can always add them back when your staycation is over). Just because you may be kicking back on your couch watching Bridget Jones’ Diary doesn’t mean your time isn’t as valuable as if you’d flown first class to Tahiti. Because it is. And you deserve every moment of this PTO to rest, reflect and recharge.
TAKE A BREAK FROM SOCIAL MEDIA. Studies have shown that social media can actually make people more depressed. Give yourself an allotted time to ignore Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for a few days (at least) and see how you feel. Not staring at a small screen, glimpsing other people’s supposed fabulous lives might actually help you relax more than you realize.
BECOME A TOURIST IN YOUR OWN TOWN. It’s easy to overlook all the great things where you live has to offer because you know you can go there anytime. So if you haven’t been to the local museum in a while, why not check it out. Go hear some new music. Find a historic spot and take pictures. Go back to a place you haven’t been in a while or explore someplace new. You might be surprised: even if you’ve lived in a place your whole life, there's probably somewhere you’ve never been. It could be a dive bar on the other side of town that serves amazing wings and supports a great local band. It could be a little craft shop with beautiful yarn. Find that place. Get to know the roots of your hometown a little more. What you find might surprise and delight you.
GET SOME EXERCISE. I know, I know. You’re on vacation. Even if you’re at home, you want the ultimate in relaxation. Of course you do and that’s fine, but even 30 minutes a day of something, anything, physical will do you good. It'll get your blood flowing, flush your body with mood-lifting endorphins and make you feel awesome. Just thirty minutes. That’s it. Hit a new yoga or spinning class you’ve been wanting to try, go for a hike or a bike ride. Take the dog on a spirited walk. It doesn’t matter. Just do something physical every day of your staycation. You won't regret it.
DO SOMETHING NICE FOR YOURSELF. Book a spa pedicure, a massage or venture to the hot springs. Bring a friend if you want. It’s been said that a massage can be as valuable as a workout for the body’s healing and well being - and it’s a lot easier to just lie there and let someone rub your stress away, right? So do it. This is your time. Make it about you.
HAVE FUN WITH YOUR KIDS. Take some day trips around your area. Pack a proper picnic with a big blanket and go to a local park. Take hikes. Spend time at home just watching movies, make a big cake, play card games or board games. It doesn’t have to be dramatic or expensive. Just spend time with them. According to a study from National Geographic Traveler, kids ages 6-15 don’t care about fancy vacations. They just want to spend quality time with you.
Above graphic from Project: Time Off