How many of you were counting down the days and weeks until Winter Break? Now that we are starting off a new year with renewed energy, we realize the miraculous benefit that those days off have for our minds and bodies. It is a much-needed time to recharge.

Vacation is meant to refresh and rejuvenate. It isn’t necessary or always the best practice to wait for holiday breaks to give ourselves that all-important rest. For the sake of well-being, holidays do not come often enough throughout the year, so here are some ways to actually build regular micro-vacations into our lives.

It may not yet be safe to travel, but we can still plan to safely relax and recharge by enjoying the benefits that come with strategies to help us disconnect and refresh.

Daily Naps
Daytime naps improve cognitive function, reduce stress, increase alertness, enhance creativity, improve resilience, lower the risk of heart attack, brighten your mood, and boost memory. The optimum nap period for improving mental operations, performance, reaction times, and subjective feelings of alertness seems to be 10 to 15 minutes. And that improvement in performance and alertness seems to be maintained for up to two and sometimes three hours after the nap. The old saying “You Snooze, You Lose” doesn’t apply in this instance. Give your brain a brief vacation to put yourself in the winning column each day.

Electronic Breaks
Another worthwhile micro-vacation is putting yourself into a digital timeout. A study published in The Journal of Social Psychology found that those folks who shut off social media exhibited lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol than those who didn’t.

You may choose a varied amount of time to back away from your phone, tablet, or computer. Even one day per a week can have a positive impact. Being mindful about taking a retreat from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or any other social media site could be beneficial to your health and well-being.

Extinguish Burnout 
Defined as a state of emotional, mental, and often physical exhaustion brought on by prolonged or repeated stress, burnout can appear in various areas of life, such as parenting, caretaking, or romantic relationships. One way to combat burnout is by programming extended breaks into our yearly calendar.

It is a fact that many of us have been bolstering our banked leave during the last 10 months of the pandemic. Consider utilizing your annual leave to truly disconnect from work. By engineering a four-day ‘staycation’ or an extended three-day weekend to spend doing the things that you enjoy, you can actually reap as much joy or more than if you were to take two weeks of vacation all at once.

The stress of orchestrating, financing, and being away from the inbox for 14 consecutive days can make a longer vacation less instrumental in recharging the body and mind. By scheduling three to four micro-vacations across a work year, you will maintain high levels of pleasant anticipation along with the resulting benefit of increased well-being.

Tracey Briggs is the supervisor of UNM Employee Wellness. She has over 35 years of health and wellness experience, holds a Master’s degree in Psychology, is certified as an AFAA Personal Trainer, NASM Fitness Nutrition Specialist, NASM Corrective Exercise Specialist, ISSA Master of Performance Nutrition and GWS Wellness Coach. She is presently working toward a PsyD. in Clinical Psychology.