Workaholics, welcome. You’ll find no shame here. We love our jobs too—a lot. In fact, we can get downright boastful about to the daily devotion and tenacity required to navigate our chronically overbooked schedules. As a culture, we’ve come to equate business with significance, but the fact remains: Our brains need rest, and they need to know how to relax.
Want to maintain peak performance? Take a vacation. Going off the grid, however, isn’t all that easy for some of us. That’s why we’ve cobbled together some tips to hack your brain into delivering the maximum return on your leisure investment. That’s right, even though you’re a mastermind at multitasking, you might benefit from learning a thing or two about how to relax—and it’s probably a lot easier than you think.
From scheduling leisure time to retraining your brain to establish a relaxing routine or even rethinking what you think it means to unwind, these life hacks will help you de-stress and teach you exactly how to relax. Take a seat, and let your mind drift off—this is going to be productive.
Reframe the Leisure Conversation
Wrap your head around this: It’s okay to just chill. Working around the clock has become somewhat of a respectable addiction. It doesn’t carry the same stigma as other vices. Chemically speaking, your brain may still be just as hooked. High-intensity gigs and prolonged periods of stress take a toll on your health. Your body and mind require restorative periods of rest to function. Without proper time off to catalog, reboot, and sort our experiences, personal growth begins to stunt or plateau. Fun has a purpose. Get serious about your playtime.
Hack Your Nervous System
There’s some actual science to come to your aid in the work/life balance equation. With proper conditioning, you can rewire your nervous system to relax on cue. Unplug from all your devices 50 minutes before you go to bed. Even small disruptions in circadian rhythms can alter your body’s ability to get effective, restorative sleep. Without proper recovery, your brain loses its ability to function at full throttle. Breathing exercises, from yoga to meditation, will organically soothe the body. When your breath is calm and controlled, the mind relaxes.
Train Your Brain
Your brain craves routine. Establishing a ritual around relaxation will help you unwind all the easier. Take your sleep habits seriously. Establish a healthy nighttime routine and a meditation practice. Energy healer Jenni Finley emphasizes the importance of integrating visual cues throughout your space to trigger thoughts of well-being and purpose. Set yourself up for success. Find a workout or hobby that serves as a regular stress release.
According to science, your brain experiences a time warp of sorts on vacation. A lack of structure can throw your perception of time itself off kilter. Maintain your healthy daily rituals throughout your holiday to give your brain a foothold. Work out at the same time you would during the workweek. Read before bed per usual. Keeping these little benchmarks in place when you step off the corporate treadmill to smooth the transition.
Schedule Your Fun Time
Grant your R&R the same treatment as everything else on your to-do list: a coveted spot on your calendar. Schedule your fun time. If this sounds lacking in spontaneity, let that go. We’re taking baby steps here. Blocking off time for fun makes sure it actually happens. Plan a vacation. Get it on the books, even if it’s in the distant future. According to a study published in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life, the anticipation of a vacation boosts happiness. Having something to look forward to is an actual building block of happiness. A bright future makes the present moment all the sweeter.
Reap the Benefits
Significance and contribution are basic human needs, needs many people get met in partial or in full through their vocations. We’re here to tell you your job is not the only place to offer you these payoffs. When you start approaching free time as integral to mental and physical health, it leaves room for plenty of soul-enriching adventures. Look forward to increased mental focus, quality time with friends and family, and, more than likely, lower blood pressure. The grid will still be there when you get back. Learning to live without it—that’s on you. Now, who’s up for Tahiti?
Teach Your Brain How to Relax
This story was originally published on July 8, 2016, and has since been updated.