July 20, 2020
This pandemic and quarantine has affected everyone differently and we’re all handling it in our own way. As we close on nearly four months of quarantine (depending on where you are in the country), we’re all thinking about our lives through a new lens. This is definitely not normal, but as human beings, we learn to adapt.
Mid-July, many of us would probably be leaving for our annual summer vacations right about now. But with millions of Americans under stay-at-home orders, international travel extremely restricted, and interstate travel is suggested with caution, there are still ways you can unplug and give your mind and body a little escape.
The reality is, we’re still in a pandemic. But you still need a break.
Taking time off may feel like a waste of time right now, especially if we’re just going to spend time indoors at home. Vacationing has always been a point of contention for many American workers, with a reported 55% of US workers not using their allotted vacation time in 2018. Many Americans feel guilty for taking time off, in contrast to many European countries, who take up to 5 weeks of vacation a year. With budget cuts and hiring freezes, workers may experience even more guilt taking time off.
But people are feeling higher levels of stress and stress-induced fatigue during quarantine, especially if they’re working. Right now Americans are some combination of overworked essential workers, stressed about the possibility of catching the virus, parents exhausted from around-the-clock childcare, and stressed from the general uncertainty of it all.
If your weekends are blending into your weekdays, it’s probably a sign that you need a little R&R. Here are some ideas to safely take a break, unplug, and recharge.
If you’re opting for a staycation, and choose to take a few days off from work, but will be recharging at home, it’s essential that you truly unplug from work. Don’t set an alarm, set up the automated OOO replies on your emails, don’t check your inbox, and clear your schedule. With the blurred lines of our home offices during this time, it’s important to make a big distinction between work and after-work hours.
The goal here is to give yourself the sense of relaxation and break from responsibility that you would feel if you were on vacation.
Exploring your neighborhood can satisfy that sense of adventure you get of exploring a new city. Take a walk in your neighborhood but go a different direction. Try not to limit yourself. Switch off your GPS and just wander. You could stumble on a new community park or neighborhood that you’ve never seen before. Don’t rush back to anything, just let yourself wander and keep an open mind.
Walking is good for your mental health, too. Physical activity activates neurons in your brain and can kickstart creativity and good moods. This is why we often feel more motivated to work after taking little breaks or come back from vacation.
If you have a backyard, consider setting up a tent and firepit out back and having a backyard campout! Roast some marshmallows, light a fire, sleep under the stars. It’s amazing what just sleeping in a different location can do (even if it’s still at home). You can even set up sleeping bags in the living room and keep the camping indoors. If we break down what we love about travel, we can find common factors that we can apply anywhere and don’t require us to go somewhere far away.
If you need a little more escape, consider taking a short road trip somewhere nearby. Depending on the protocols where you live, take a day trip to a beach or nature area and drive back the same day. Take the scenic route wherever you go and enjoy the change in environment. Getting out of the house and merely driving somewhere gives you that sense of heading to a destination, even if it’s just to have a socially distant picnic or beach day.
Be safe and pack provisions (a cooler full of refreshing drinks and snacks) and fill up your tank to minimize gas station visits. Take hand sanitizer, wipes, and gloves with you when you do have to touch things like gas pumps.
Take advantage of hotels practicing socially distance protocols and really make a little trip out of it. Pick a fun destination two hours away from where you live, make a road trip out of it, and stay somewhere with your quarantine partner. Or use Airbnb to book an entire bungalow to yourself (Without the worry of getting too close to other hotel guests)! A new startup called Getaway House is setting up tiny-homes in remote locations (close to major cities) across the country outfitted with showers, provisions, and lots of space for the ultimate quarantine nature getaway.
Whatever you choose, taking some time to step away from work (or your normal quarantine routine if you’re unemployed right now) is essential for our overall health. It’s easy to fall into downward spirals of negativity right now, and “taking a vacation” seems like the last thing on many people’s minds. But you deserve it, and more importantly, your body needs it. It may not be the “best vacation ever”, but it will certainly be one for the books, a great time for reflection, and maybe even kind of fun!