You’re on the sixth straight day of work. The general physical exhaustion is beginning to seep into your bones. Oddly enough, you are becoming comfortable with it. There is a heaviness in your step, a lethargic velocity in your thought, and that particular type of hysteria that sets in after writing a paper all night is becoming apparent. Warning signs flash as you make absurd conversation with strangers in the elevator. Now you are laughing to yourself for very questionable reasons. Sound the alarm. You, my friend, need a daycation.
Did I hear that right?
Yes, a “daycation.” Because who the hell has time to take a week off? This hip new phrase is used to connote a single day taken to do whatever you like, with the intention of recharging your mental and physical reserves (Disclaimer: this phrase may be neither hip nor new). The beauty of a daycation is that it can be taken wherever you like, even just at home. “But I’m too busy,” you say. Don’t lie to yourself. We can all afford to take at least one day off.
Besides, taking the occasional day off is actually beneficial to your mental health and subsequent productivity. In an interview with CNN, Dr. Matthew Sleeth talks about how the relentless work ethic that has become typical in the U.S. is detrimental to people’s well being. He explains that for over 200 years, Western culture shut down on the Sabbath, giving the general population a day to reboot for the coming week.
In the last 30 years, however, this tradition has disappeared. People are going 24/7, constantly captured by the need to be doing something or communicating with someone. Technology has made this all the more true.
Sleeth explains how never having a day off takes a toll on our lives, scientifically (boo-yah). “When we’re constantly going, we pour out chemicals to try to meet those stresses. We have short-term stress hormones like adrenaline, and longer-term hormones like the steroids that we pour out. Those chemicals constantly being ‘on’ are bad for us, and they lead to anxiety and depression and to, I think, diabetes and being obese.” His solution is to have just one 24-hour stretch each week to ignore all work obligations.
Disconnect for a few hours
Ok, so you’ve convinced your manager to give you a day off. Now, how do you make the most of it? You may be shaking with excitement at the prospect of being able to do almost anything you like (within reasonable means, of course. This isn’t “Entourage”). Regardless of what you do, though, there are some guidelines that will seriously improve the chances of having a rejuvenating daycation.
Here comes the hard truth. The first step in making the most of your day off is to disconnect from technology. Does it really come as any surprise that spending all day on Facebook can’t do much for alleviating your mental health? “My favorite way to relax is to compare myself to people I haven’t seen in years based on assumptions I make looking at photos that only ever show them going out,” said no one ever.
Technology addiction is a real thing, formed by the small dopamine rush a person gets upon receiving a text, email, or even just a “Like” on Facebook.
If you leave your phone and laptop aside, it lets you actually engage with what you are doing. Obviously, contact the people you want to spend the day with so you can meet up. Once together, however, turn that phone to silent and resist the urge to check Google every time you get into an argument.
What to do…what to do…with a daycation
Now that we’ve gotten through that hefty introduction, what are some cool daycations you can take yourself? It really depends on whether you just want a day to relax and do the things you love or if you want to do something new and exciting.
In the first case, try doing whatever thing you enjoy in a new location. If you’re a reader for instance, find a place that really reflects the literature you are immersed in. Hike into the middle of a field or to the top of a mountain to read Ralph Waldo Emerson. A fan of vampire literature? How about sneaking into that abandoned castle on the hill behind your house and reading in the coffin-laden dungeon? (Actually, don’t do that).
If you play a musical instrument, go play it on the street or in a public park instead of in your bedroom in front of the mirror. At least one person will come up and start talking to you. All it takes to revamp the excitement of a common pastime is a little change of location.
Getting out and trying something totally new can do wonders for your state of mind. There is a lot to be said for the importance of stepping outside your comfort zone. In this realm, your anxiety levels are just slightly higher than when you feel comfortable. But this is a good thing. It actually makes you more productive and betters your ability to deal with the unexpected. Personal growth is the greatest in times spent outside of ones comfort zone.
There are a lot of resources online that can give you ideas on new things to try. Sites like Groupon and LivingSocial offer all sorts of deals on things you might never think to do otherwise. Excursions, classes, concerts and more are available for totally affordable prices.
The more unorthodox you make your day off, the more refreshed and ready you will feel when it’s time to return to your regular routine. This is the point of the daycation. It is meant to be an interruption of your day-to-day work life. Forget watching TV. Make your own damn TV show with a digital camera and a few friends. Hang out with your most awkward coworkers. It has the potential to end up being hilarious.
We tend to live very predictable lives, but it really doesn’t take much to do something exciting. The slightest step out of the ordinary is enough to transform an average day into an unforgettable daycation. At the very least, it will give you some good stories to tell to your colleagues at work who aren’t even listening to you because they are on their smartphones. But it’s ok. They are really only getting jealous about how exciting your life seems on Facebook.
Go have some fun.