Why you should schedule leisure activities to avoid burnout

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Scheduling leisure activities to avoid burnout

The start of the new year is often a time for new beginnings and the revaluation of priorities. So this year, let’s make 2022 the year in which we actively practice self-care – starting with scheduling a bit of “me time” every day.

Stress and mental health problems are on the rise around the world. The uncertainty, loss, financial stress and difficulties of the last two years have taken their toll on us all. These difficult times mean it’s more important than ever to practice self-care.

Consider: how much time to you actively make for yourself in a typical day?

The need to avoid burnout

Our lives can be so busy – juggling work, family responsibilities and other pressures. Often, it’s the time that we spend on ourselves that gets squeezed the hardest.

But that can be a risky strategy. While, at the time, it might seem expedient to work late into the night to finish a paper or presentation, these decisions take their toll on us eventually – leading to high-stress levels, poor performance and, if left unchecked for too long, burnout.

Learning from people who have been there and got the tshirt is vital. Arianna Huffington, for example, has spoken out about her experience of overworking herself and how that led to burnout. In her 2014 book “Thrive” she posited meditation, mindfulness, unplugging, and giving back as the antidotes to the all-too-prevalent stress and burnout we experience in modern life.

Make time for yourself

It takes firm commitment to be able to put aside work or other stresses and decide to make time for doing what makes you feel good.

However, the experience of Arianna Huffington and others makes it clear that scheduling time in which you can switch off completely is an essential part of any long-term success strategy.

But how do you do that?

Start by learning how to switch off at the end of the day. In our 2019 article “switch off at the end of the day”, we outlined the best way to delineate between your work life and your home life.

  1. Start unwinding half an hour before you are due to leave the office.  End your day with tasks that set you up for a good start the following day.
  2. Finish your working day with some exercise: head to the gym or cycle home.  As well as creating a “hard stop” to your day, exercise will reward you with some mood-boosting endorphins.
  3. Cultivate healthy relaxing rituals – for example, taking a bath or meditating.
  4. Nourish your mind.  Rather than turning on the TV, actively participate in your entertainment.  Reading is an ideal way to unwind – offering you peace and calm, while also providing an opportunity to learn something new.
  5. Reach out to friends.  After a long commute, heading back out of the house to meet up with friends might be the last thing you want to do, but long-term happiness and good mental health depends on these important personal relationships.  For their sake and yours – nurture them.
  6. Make time for family.  Don’t rely on screen time to bond: go low-fi with your quality family time and spend time outdoors, at the park, or inside playing a board game.  It is surprising how refreshing it can be to step away from the screen and chill out – and how much more rejuvenated you will feel as a result.

How should you fill the leisure time you schedule for yourself?

It doesn’t really matter what you do with your “me time” – as long as you avoid negative patterns or habits. It might be as simple as curling up with a good book or talking a walk around your neighbourhood. A hobby doesn’t have to be complex or expensive to do you good.

During lockdown, there has been a rediscovery of simple pleasures like gardening and baking. If you aren’t lucky enough to have your own patio or garden, why not get involved with a community allotment or urban garden project?

Think about what interested you as a child and the things that have brought you happiness in your life and make time in your schedule to reconnect with those activities – or those people.

The important thing is to always include a bit of this important leisure time in your schedule.

Make it a priority, at the start of the week, when you write out your weekly planner, to allocate some time each day to you. You can think of it as an important investment in your long-term health and happiness.

Still thinking about this issue?