Tips for switching off

2012-11-26 09:49

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It's something we long for all year round: those few precious sunny, summer days to just lounge around, relax, eat like kings and connect with the people we love best. No work, no worries, just plain holiday.

Sadly, the reality of a break is often far less rosy than the hopes we have for it. After a whole year of fast-paced, stress-fuelled daily existence, forcing one's mind and body to slow down to a snail's pace is... well... a bit of a challenge. And as technology gets smarter by the minute, it seems ever harder to escape from our work life responsibilities. 

But escape we must. So here are seven tips to help you unplug, switch off and hopefully recharge. 

1. Create a ritual

When I was little there were two exciting things that marked the last day of school for the truly momentous occasion it was: 1. My parents would get my brother and I each a tiny, but super exciting gift (think bubbles, a beach ball or a cool cap) and leave it on our beds to find when we got home. 2. My mom would pick us up from school and head straight to Wimpy or Milky Lane for a celebratory milkshake. 

Now, it may sound silly and overindulgent, but this little ritual clearly marked the end of busyness and the beginning of fun. 

However, a ritual can be as simple as taking the scenic drive home on your last day of work, instead of the shortest one, as usual. Or putting up your Christmas tree, popping a bottle of champagne or kicking off your shoes as soon as you walk out the office. 

2. Start the holiday with a bang

Avoid an anticlimactic end to your working year by celebrating up a storm on your first evening of freedom.

Arrange a special date night with your partner, invite your friends over for a braai or hit your favourite hangout for a boogy.

Or if you're hitting the road for your holiday destination straight from work, play your favourite feel-good songs, sing along and stop off for a special treat along the way. 

3. Switch to a good old 3310

If most of your work life is spent behind a computer screen, chances are you're suffering from a severe information overload. Email Google, Facebook, Twitter, chat programmes may all be an enjoyable part your day, but the fact is they're really only filling all your valuable brain space with unnecessary information. Good for procrastination, but bad for holiday.

Use your vacation to take a good and proper break from social media for a while. Set your smartphone aside and haul out that ancient Nokia. Or if it seems like a bit of a mission, what with transferring contacts and all, just switch off the notifications on your phone. 

You'll be surprised at how fresh your thoughts start feeling without all that virtual gunk. Besides, do you really want to see people constantly trying to prove that they're having more fun than you? I think not. 

4. Get an accountability partner

If you struggle switching off from work responsibility, ask your partner, a close friend or one of your kids to help you. 

Get them to reprimand you if they catch you checking mails or talking about anything vaguely work-related. Add a fun aspect to it by making some rules. If you're holidaying with party animal friends, turn it into a drinking game. If you're with your family, a money jar system could work well - where you'd have to pop R5 into a designated container every time you get caught with work on your mind.

The money collected by the end of the holiday can be used to treat your kids to ice creams or your partner to a meal.

5. Rediscover your fun side

Think back to a time before the heavy burden of responsibility made you a boring person. What did you like doing? What made you laugh? What were your favourite games? Who did you like hanging out with?

It may take a while to recall, but once you have all the crucial details in place, make an effort to revisit your old self. (Do keep in mind, however, that there would be sides of that old self best left in the past for everyone's sanity!)

If surfing was your passion as a teen, but you haven't touched a board or wetsuit in more than a year, get out beyond the breakers for a change. Or if you really liked baking, but never get round to it anymore, whip up a batch of Christmas cookies that would make your grandma proud.

6. Practice doing... nothing

So, it's the first official day of holiday and you're wide awake at 6am. Kind of sucks, but it's your choice what to do next. Either get up and start your day all restlessly, or sink back into the sheets and try your best to relax. 

It does take practice and effort, but it's so worth it in the end. Grab an easy read, do a Sudoku or just cuddle your partner/kid/pet.

Once you manage this, you can start trying to implement it in the rest of your day. Instead of desperately searching for something to do in free moments, force yourself to sit back, close your eyes and dream for a bit. You will thank yourself later.

7. Remember holidays (and life) are short and precious

Take a tip from kids. They really know how to forget all about their worries (pffft! Like they have any, but that's besides the point) and really live in the moment. Why not try doing that?

If you struggle, just remember this: you don't know what your life will look like in a year's time, so if it's good right now, stop striving for the next awesome thing and... relax.

All photos: Shutterstock

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