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5 Simple ways to use your time off to rest, reset and recover from stress

It never fails. After a long week of deadlines and keeping yourself fed, watered, and, most importantly, breathing, you’re finally off-the-clock for some much-needed rest and relaxation aaaaaand…your mind isn’t on board.

Instead, your brain is stuck on an endless loop of items from your to-do list, making you feel frazzled and close to burn out, even though, in theory, you’re supposed to be on a well-earned break.

So, what can you do to get your mind on board for time off?

Disconnecting from work and enjoying your time off is a key ingredient in the recipe for the work-life balance that most of us are striving for. In fact, according to Science Daily, time off helps employees recharge, recover from stress and avoid burnout.

But time off isn’t time off if you can’t get out of your head.

So how can you ease into your vacations, weekends, and after-hours to feel rested and refreshed?

Keep reading for some of our favorite practical techniques to help you manage any lingering stress (using the power of science!) so you can enjoy your free time.

1. Mute notifications.

Enforce quiet hours when it comes to alerts. You can’t turn off that thought loop from work if you’re constantly getting updates from your work email, messaging, and so on.

It’s too easy to get caught up in checking on things "just in case" and telling yourself you’ll only reply to what’s actually urgent.

The problem with those non-urgent tasks? They’re still cluttering up your mental space and spinning your mental wheels when you’re supposed to be giving your busy brain a break.

Add to that the fact that studies show that constant notifications from work trigger the release of the stress hormone cortisol, which raises your heartbeat, tenses your muscles and even makes your palms sweat—all things best avoided when what you really want is to relax.

So silence alerts, stay out of your email (no peeking) and try to remember that if something’s a true-blue emergency and you’re the person to handle it, your coworkers are likely to pick up the phone and go the extra mile to get in touch.

2. Jot down your thoughts.

Take some time and write things down to get out of your head. This activity is especially useful when your thoughts are spiraling out of control, and you’re feeling like you just can’t escape thinking about work and things you should be doing, even though you had every intention of de-stressing and disconnecting.

The simple act of writing down what’s on your mind gives you some mental space to stop thinking about it for a while and the confidence that you’ll be able to remember it later when it’s time to get back to work.

The results of an experiment published in the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Experimental Psychology supports this method—participants who journaled had fewer intrusive thoughts.

And if you’d rather not leave a paper trail, your Foundations Thought record is a safe, private and protected place to keep track of your thoughts, how they make you feel, and how they change over time.

3. Get in the zone

Do something that absorbs all of your attention. Also known as getting in the flow, it’s a clinically proven way to feel better.

A study by Annals of Behavioral Medicine found that not only did people who engage in hobbies feel 34% less stressed, but they also had lower heart rates and felt calmer for hours—yes, hours—afterward.

So make arts and crafts with your kids, sign up for (and attend) a cooking class with friends, knit blankets for rescue cats, or strum your electric guitar endlessly (beginners should hook up to headphones to avoid complaints from neighbours).

Do something completely different from your nine-to-five.

You’ll know you’re in the zone when you lose track of time for a while. Pro-tip: If you have to be somewhere at a certain time (whether that’s in bed sleeping, or at the gym for yoga), you should set a timer so that you’re not distracted by trying to watch the clock.

Making wreathes and doing crafts can help you disconnect from work

@shutters_guild via Unplash

4. Meditate.

Bring your attention back to the present moment (and away from that endless to-do list) with meditation. According to Harvard Health Publishing at the Harvard School of Medicine, meditation is particularly helpful when it comes to unproductive thoughts—and thinking about work when you’re supposed to be relaxing definitely qualifies.

Getting started and building a regular meditation habit can feel daunting, especially for newbies.

Fortunately, with mental wellbeing apps like Foundations, it’s easier than ever for beginners to get started with guided meditations they can use on-the-go for everything from getting to sleep quickly to dealing with anger or even just being kinder to yourself and others.

5. Get moving.

Sometimes the best and easiest way to disconnect is to get moving. Walking, running, dancing, yoga, it doesn’t really matter what you do, as long as it works for your fitness level and you enjoy doing it.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, the endorphins from even five minutes of exercise can help with stress and anxiety.

And let’s face it, it’ll probably take you longer than five minutes to come up with a good excuse, and excuses don’t offer any of the benefits, either.

What are some of your favorite ways to ease into your time-off? Email us at foundations@koahealth.com to share your answers.