Q Cards: How to Recharge Without Using a Day of PTO

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Everybody deserves a beach day — or five beach days and a piña colada — but not all methods to recharging need to dip into your PTO or your frequent flier miles.

Jason Conover, licensed clinical social worker at Utah Valley Clinic Psychiatry and Counseling, says recharging can look like one of two methods for removing barnacles from boats. Mariners can dry dock their vessel, which involves taking the boat completely out of the water. (Hello, weekend in Mexico.) Or they can take it to fresh water. (Hello, Q Cards article.)

“The barnacles of burnout can start to fall off without having to dry dock. The fresh water option is much more efficient for business, and we’re going to get a lot more creativity and joy naturally coming out of that,” Conover says. “Happy employees make for successful workplaces.”

Here are five tips to create that kind of workplace — without buying a plane ticket.

  1. Mindfulness. One way to refresh is to practice mindfulness. Conover says this can look like riding a bike to work, calling up a family member you haven’t talked to in a while, or focusing on tasting food instead of just eating. “Seeing life with new eyes — fresh eyes — helps us remember it’s actually a privilege to be able to work, and especially a privilege to be able to choose what we do for work,” Conover says.

  2. Sleep. Instead of grinding during the workweek and sleeping extra during the weekend, Conover recommends creating a steady sleep rhythm. “Sleep is a huge key for being able to recharge without using your PTO. Sleep is the golden harp for this,” he says. “We are chronically in a deficit in America, and many people report around six hours of sleep on work days.” To improve your routine, Conover recommends the book “Change Your Schedule, Change Your Life,” by Michelle D. Seaton and Suhas G. Kshirsagar.

  3. Physical Activity. “I’m a big fan of being passionate and having purpose,” Conover says. “When we are about things that matter to us and make a difference to the world, we recharge. We are charged! We’re on a mission. And we can do more things than usual.” Conover recommends choosing a physical activity like yoga that connects the mind. If the activity brings you into a community and creates friendships, all the better. “Buddies are also burnout prevention — connecting with people,” he says.

  4. Do Both. Schedule time to be mindful and spontaneous. It will open you up to new world experiences. “Mindfulness and rhythm are a bit at odds with each other, because mindfulness is like being that child in a field picking dandelions,” he says. “But mindfulness is actually very focused, too. It’s actually an antidote for attention deficit.” Conover is also a proponent of not multitasking and instead focusing on one thing at a time as a way to be more mindfully focused.

  5. Outward Mindset. “The Outward Mindset” is a book by the Arbinger Institute with a new psychology theory to help heal burnout. Instead of having an inward mindset where we forget other people, we turn our focus outward and value other people’s hopes and needs as equal to our own. “Mindset drives behavior and behavior drives results,” Conover says. “The essence of it would be, ‘Has this person become real to me? Have they become human?’”

How to Vacation with Elegance

But really, everyone should enjoy the sand and sun once in a while. Even so, Conover says days off will be more enjoyable if you’re regularly recharging during your normal workweek.

“This has an advantage and elegance because I can renew while at work and with my regular routine. Then if I go on vacation, I can really enjoy it,” Conover says.

He warns that if you’re not regularly recharged, you’ll dread coming home and it will distract from your R&R.

“Some people might start feeling kind of desperate even as they’re starting to come back — like, ‘My vacation is half over and I’m going back to the grind.’ That calendar is counterproductive for the benefit of the vacation,” Conover says.

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