Nearly half of all Americans take less than half of their paid annual vacation—a trend that’s continued since the 1990s. In 1980, employees took an average of 21 days a year. That number dipped to 16 in 2013, and has only recently started to climb, hitting 17 days of vacation taken in 2016.
Creating a work-life balance, however, is important to maintaining mental and physical health. Overfull schedules often lead to stress, anxiety and depression. Taking time away cultivates a healthy balance. To keep that balance, try the following:
Getting and staying fit helps boost your immune system and bust stress. Exercise doesn’t have to mean hitting the gym for an hour each day, either. Take the stairs at work. Park at the far end of the parking lot. Use part of your lunch hour to go for a walk.
While many people pride themselves on their ability to multitask, it can make it difficult to focus on just one thing, which can cause a mental overload and, thus, more stress.
When you want things to turn out in exactly a certain way—and they don’t—you can experience extreme disappointment. For example: Let’s say you plan the “perfect” vacation, but it rains a couple days. Try to roll with the unexpected and embrace whatever experiences do present themselves. And when you’re at work, don’t become a slave to perfectionism—learn to let little things go; take the reins and manage your expectations, so they don’t manage you.
Even if you spend just a few minutes each day on yourself, commit to doing so. Find activities you enjoy and that help you to relax. Incorporate different things into each day—a weekly massage or tennis game, a long soak or shower, lunch with a friend, a pedicure, game night with the kids. Doing things you love and that make you feel happy will enable you to train your brain to take a time-out and power down when you need to escape from the stress of work.
Organize your meals to eat healthier
If you’re constantly on the go, it becomes all too easy to depend on fast food. Check to see if your area has online shopping or grocery delivery to save time. Always use a list when you shop; don’t shop when you’re hungry; and stick to the store perimeter, where you’ll typically find the healthiest items. Plan out weekly meals. Choose recipes you can make in 30 minutes or fewer.
Don’t skimp on sleep, which allows the body to heal and re-energize physically and mentally. A few late nights when you’re on deadline might happen, but don’t make it a habit. Ideally, go to bed and rise at the same times every day. Aim for a reasonable bedtime at least five nights per week.
Unplug at dinner. Limit the time you spend on social media to an hour (or less) a day most days. Take time to meditate, whether in a yoga class or with an app.
Overcoming stress even with a busy schedule
A demanding, busy lifestyle brings a host of challenges to those recovering from addiction. An additional challenge stems from feeling guilty about prioritizing individual needs, but it really is crucial to put yourself first.
Track your triggers that cause stress, anxiety, or fear. Practice mindfulness and seek activities that relax you healthfully, calm your nerves and lift your spirits. Why not become an addiction advocate or volunteer in your community? The experience you gain from helping people is rewarding and also expands your recovery toolkit. You’ll meet others with whom you can build healthy relationships and expand your coping abilities.
All work and no play? No way!
When work becomes all-consuming, you sacrifice sleep, sanity, memory and increase chances of weight gain, tobacco or alcohol use. Naturally you want to focus on work, but not taking time to relax and chill will decrease your professional productivity and hurt your mental and physical health.