Too busy to take a break right now? With impending deadlines, a calendar full of meetings, a packed to-do-list, open tabs on your browser and unread emails, downtime rarely takes priority. Throw in the world of smartphones and laptops and recharging ourselves goes out the window. In the book No One Understands You and What to Do About It, Heidi Grant Halvorson writes, “There’s a lot of pressure in this 24/7 cycle. It can lead you to feel lethargic, stressed and depleted – literally spent.”
With this in mind, we’ve come up with some activities to help you get your head out of the day-to-day cycle and switch off. On top of Netflix and meditation, below are the resounding go-tos for relaxing and recharging:
- Read a Book – Reading is one of those rare and wonderful things that opens your mind to relaxation and concentration at the same time. It’s a proven fact that just six minutes of reading reduces stress levelsby 68 per cent. But with so much ‘required’ reading in our daily lives, how often do you take time to read for pleasure? By opening a book you escape into a literary world and your mind shifts gears. You’ll also learn a thing or two. Check out this TED talkabout the magic of reading.
- Get Outdoors – Getting out in nature clears the fuzziness; whether it’s walking, running, swimming or simply watching the ocean. Quiet settings help puts life’s challenges into perspective and allow you to refocus.
- Watch Bizarre Videos – Depending on your taste, a few minutes of humour or cuteness could provide the motivational boost you need to get back on track with that tedious task. If animals aren’t your thing, find a stand-up clip. We all know laughing relieves pressure.
- Find a Podcast – When you don’t feel like reading a book or watching a video, podcasts are great company. You could be exercising, driving or cleaning. Listening to a great podcast is like eavesdropping on a conversation with the most entertaining people you know. The relaxed forum makes for a more intimate relationship between yourself and the producer than on radio or television. Whether film stars, science or crime take your fancy, you can pop your headphones on no matter where you are or what you’re doing.
- Take a Nap – There’s great value in sleeping during the day. It packs some serious cognitive benefits like greater alertness and problem solving. If you want proof that power napping improves output you needn’t look further than Albert Einstein, whose creativity-boosting naps lasted mere seconds. More recently, a study at NASA found that a 40-minute nap improved astronauts’ performance by 34 per cent and alertness 100 per cent. Clearly some of the smartest people we know found enhanced productivity through napping.
- Discover Your Spirit Animal – Uncovering the animal that best conveys your soul is empowering - or so I’m told. Some swear by putting your primal thoughts into action because it helps you feel at peace with yourself, come up with new ideas and be more useful to others. Convinced you need to find your spirit animal? Take this quiz.
- Take Relaxation Where You Can – There’s nothing like the freedom and flexibility to do whatever you like. But we aren’t always the best at knowing what to do when we have a free moment. Filling your spare time with activities like reading a magazine in the sun or chilling out in front of your favourite television show might not be as exciting as that luxury spa treatment you were fantasizing about, but even if the reality of ‘me time’ doesn’t quite live up to your expectations, the act of putting aside that time is just as rejuvenating.
“The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge, but imagination.”
It’s hard to carve time-out in today’s always-on world but there are clear advantages in doing just that. Next time you feel like technology and your brain aren’t getting along, remember there is an upside to downtime.
Lauren Clancy is a consultant at Spectrum Group