6 Ways to Make the Most of Time Off

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From taking it slow to not being a slave to your digital devices, here are six ways to help make the most of time off and to help stay connected with the person or people you’re sharing your time off with.

For many, summer vacation season has ended and the regular school and work schedule is coming back into full swing. But some of you might still be planning to take a break from the daily grind. I know that’s true for me as I’ll be taking two separate breaks a few weeks apart to refresh and recharge. Like so many, I want to make the most of my time off, so I’ve been contemplating just how to go about that and even doing some research on the topic.

One of the great benefits of living in the mobile-digital age is that we have the ability to “stay connected” almost anytime and anywhere. While there’s certainly advantage to that, it can be a problem when your purpose is actually to “get away from it all.” I’ll have my smartphone with me the whole time away. It will no doubt come in quite handy when I’m looking for directions or trying to contact folks I plan to visit. But there will be temptations to tend to emails and other work, so I thought I’d share the advice I gleaned from my research and plan to take myself, in hopes that any time off you may take now or in the future will reap all the many benefits possible.

Take it slow.
There’s truth in the old adage that you have to take time to make time. Crowding your schedule with too many things to do — even fun things — can leave you more exhausted than refreshed at the end of a vacation. It’s important to slow down and savor the moments that will make great memories. Make sure there’s plenty of time in the schedule for pure rest and relaxation. Perhaps you could finish that book you’ve been reading only spottily. Maybe you could even fit in time for a massage. If you’re traveling with a companion, make sure you have plenty of quality time together. It’s not enough just to be in the same places and doing the same things. Your relationship will be renewed and bolstered by taking the time to really get to know one another again. Plan to savor the time off as it will go quickly enough. But it will go even more quickly if it’s too crammed full of activities and obligations, and you’ll likely return home with a sense you need another vacation!
Pack wisely and economically.
It’s really not necessary to take something for every day and for every possible occasion. Packing and unpacking can become one of the greater drudgeries of any trip, gobbling up precious time and fraying the nerves. If you’re traveling by car, you want to be sure you have ample space. So, if you’re leaving for 10 days, don’t pack like you’ll be gone for 3 months. Besides, vacation time is much more about feeling great than it is looking perfect all the time. Chances are any fellow vacationers you encounter won’t be caring all that much about how you look anyway.
Stay active.
It’s always a good idea to balance pure rest with some healthy exercise. This trip, my wife and I plan to put our bikes on the rack of our rental car and hit some scenic trails at a few of the places we plan to visit. I’m probably looking forward to this more than any part of our trip. It’s a good way not only to be together and enjoy one another’s company but also to take in the scenery and forget all your cares. There are many ways to get in some healthy activity on trips. The important thing is get the balance right between “just chillin'” and going and doing.
Don’t tie yourself down.
We’ve all used vacation time to visit family and friends. This can be a really enjoyable part of any time off. But it’s also all too easy to saddle yourself with obligations. You have to set some limits. Feeling obliged to say “yes” to every invitation can really put a damper on the spontaneity that needs to be a part of every truly refreshing vacation. The best time off is time spent truly freely. It’s important to do what you want to do, not what you think you have to do.
Make sure to do some things you really like doing.
I particularly like new adventures. So even though we’ll be going places we’ve been many times, we plan to see and do some things we haven’t seen or done before. And as I mentioned before, we really like biking, so we’ll be getting plenty of that in. And my wife loves to shop so, well…probably best not to get into that. Anyway, the important thing is to fill a good deal of your time with the things you know you’ll enjoy but don’t always have time for. It will make all the difference in the world.
Don’t be a slave to your digital devices.
It’s too easy to stay so attached to your laptop, tablet, or smartphone that you forget there’s a whole world around you to enjoy and a partner to share that enjoyment with. Set up an “out for the week” auto-reply on your email account. Forget about posting every little thing to Facebook. It’s just as important to “stay connected” to the person you love and the time you have to share together.

This is the advice I was able to glean from my research, and I sure hope I take it myself. And I hope it proves good advice not just for us but for all of you. I know the true test of how good a vacation this will be will come upon our return. While we might not be fully prepared to resume the daily grind, hopefully we’ll at least be renewed enough in spirit to make it until our next vacation.

All clinical material on this site is peer reviewed by one or more clinical psychologists or other qualified mental health professionals. This specific article was originally published by on and was last reviewed or updated by Dr Greg Mulhauser, Managing Editor on .

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