Planning for Down Time
Having anxiety and depression makes you really good at schedules. Keeping regular sleeping, eating and exercise times helps me stay healthy and positive. Working a highly structured job keeps me grounded. Each item I finish on my schedule gives me a sense of accomplishment that is critical to my mental health. Basically, structured time stops me from ruminating on negative thoughts.
Being a teacher means I also have regular holidays and time off. This down time, even a three-day weekend, can be disruptive to my ability to deal with stress. For many people unstructured time off is a holiday. For people suffering from mood disorders, this blank space can increase anxiety because we don’t know what to do or it can increase depression because we don’t have anything to do.
So now March Break is upon us and I need to figure out how to stay healthy for nine days off work. Here are my top tips:
- Try to keep the agenda light for your first day and last day off. The first day I find I need to decompress and take some time just to sort out my thoughts. I have to adjust my thinking away from my ultra-organized, working brain or I’ll never relax. Just as important is some down time at the end of my holiday. The day before a return to work can be fraught with anxiety. Avoid stressful tasks and conversations as this can make going back to work even more unpleasant. This is a good day for low-key plans like yoga or going to the movies.
- Look at your yearly holidays and strike a balance between travelling and staying home. Not every holiday has to start in an airport or car. Travelling can often be a source of stress so for this March Break, Nick and I are staying close to home and doing smaller day and overnight trips. In the summer we plan to do our more long-term travelling.
- It’s OK to plan some work for each day but use moderation. If your to do list is as long as it is on a work day, you’re doing it wrong. Holidays are a time to do less, not more.
- Plan in fun activities too. Make plans with friends and family that you’ll enjoy. Block off some time to do your own thing as well.
- Be flexible. Change plans as you need or clear out some extra time for yourself. Don’t feel guilty for wanting to drink a cup of tea and read your book. I’m going to be reading Ready Player One on my March Break.
- Don’t get rid of all your unstructured time. A bit of boredom or uncertainty can be good for the brain. It forces you to problem solve and seek your own happiness.
- Don’t forget to do those healthy things you do every other day: eat healthy, sleep well, breathe deep and have fun!
So now I’m ready for my March Break. I hope you are too. Plan ahead and be well.