The year 2020 will be known as the year of uncertainty. With a global pandemic, a worldwide economic slowdown, and protests bringing attention to systemic racism, it’s a tricky time to decide when to take a day or more away from work and chores. Yet, research continues to underscore that downtime is vital for our well-being.
While you may not feel comfortable booking a trip out of the country or out of your state, you can still get away and nurture your personal interests—whether that’s creating a spa day at home, taking a day at the beach, or camping in the mountains for the weekend. Here are a few ideas to inspire you to take some time off.
Note: When planning any kind of travel this year, check CDC Travel Guidelines and be prepared for changes to quarantine rules or restrictions.
A staycation, spending leisure time at home, is one of the most budget-friendly vacation options around. It can be as simple as switching off your phone, putting your computer in a drawer, and setting up a hammock in your backyard. Putting an umbrella in your drink is optional.
The hardest part of staying home is the temptation to catch up on chores, so the best way to make a staycation more relaxing is to treat it like any other vacation. Make a point to tackle chores before your staycation starts, or if budget and safety concerns allow, consider hiring a professional cleaning service beforehand so you don’t spend the week vacuuming or dusting blinds.
Plan your meals ahead of time too, whether that’s picking out recipes you’ve been wanting to try, like these delicious veggie burgers, getting groceries delivered, or planning some takeout nights with restaurants you would like to support.
Try dedicating space for meditation or yoga, or pick up candles and bath bombs for some luxurious home spa time. If you are staying in with a partner or family members, take turns leading classes or find some online events that you can attend together. You can plan a movie night from our list of 10 Spiritual Movies to Watch, or spend a few nights curled up on the porch with a great book.
Research shows you can still get the benefits of a break without leaving home. An APA Work and Well-Being Study reports that a majority of working adults felt positive effects from taking time off and that when they returned to work their mood was more positive (68 percent), they had more energy (66 percent), and felt more motivated (57 percent).
Planning a few day trips is another great way to unwind. Just pack a lunch or snacks and check out a state park or a local lake where you can stay socially distanced. There are many health benefits to spending time in nature, whether you are biking, golfing, or reading in a hammock. Plus, you can catch up on podcasts, like an episode of Omega’s own Dropping In, or make an old-fashioned playlist of your favorite songs for the car ride.
Speaking of the car ride, avoid conflicts by being sure everyone in your group communicates how long they are willing to spend in the car on the way there and back. To keep the length of the trip managable for everyone, check out what's available closer ot home. You might be surprised to find a previously overlooked lake nearby or a great deal on a local excursion, such as horseback riding or kayaking.
A Weekend Getaway
For many, a long weekend away is a great way to unplug.
Research shows that short trips are still effective in lowering work-induced stress. These small-cations are a good fit for those who don’t feel comfortable taking a whole week or two away right now. Plus, they can be budget friendly. You might even consider booking a series of long weekends throughout the year if you have paid time off.
Start by getting clear about what kind of atmosphere feels most relaxing for you—for instance, a cabin in the woods, a beach bungalow, or a nearby city with a different atmosphere than where you live. Look for places that are about two or three hours away, so that you don’t take too much time driving to your destination. Next, consider leaving your laptop at home and putting your phone in airplane mode to truly unplug from work and the news.
A Week or Two Away
If you can make it happen (schedule and budget-wise), a full week or two away from your responsibilities can be a great way to recharge.
Longer vacations have proven health benefits. A three-year study from Harvard Business Review and the U.S. Travel Association of more than 5,000 Americans found that taking more vacation time results in greater success at work along with lower stress and more happiness both at work and at home. The research also found that individuals who took more than 10 of their vacation days had a 65 percent chance of receiving a raise or a bonus.
Yet, the fact is, you will need to get more creative with your planning this year. You can start by prioritizing accommodations with stringent COVID policies or private home and Airbnb rentals. Avoid crowds at large resorts and look for places where you are able to practice social distancing with contact-free transactions such as virtual check-in and out, digital keys, outdoor dining options, and more. And don't forget to pack your face mask!
Many hotels are showing more flexibilty in these COVID times, so don't be afraid to book hotels in a few different areas and then choose your final destination based on which location has the lowest number of cases.
The Bottom Line?
“People need time off from work to recover from stress and prevent burnout,” said David W. Ballard, head of the American Psychology Association’s (APA) Center for Organizational Excellence in a statement. Yet, about 768 million days of vacation time went unused by American workers in 2018 alone, according to data from the U.S. Travel Association.
Don't contribute to that statisic this year. Use 2020 to get creative with your time off and recharge, especially in a time when destressing is so vital to your well-being.