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By Kenadi Silcox
May 4, 2020
Amrita Marino for Money

The coronavirus has thrown a wrench into our everyday lives. More likely than not, your plans for the foreseeable future have been at least slightly—if not entirely— shaken up.

Non-essential workers lucky enough to still be employed have had to adapt to working from home, which comes with a long list of pros and cons. It’s great to have non-microwave lunches and eschew office niceties (and pants) but it’s hard to know where work ends and “regular” life begins. On the flip side, essential workers are bogged down with long hours and safety concerns, and “weekends” are seemingly a thing of the past. Suffice it to say, pretty much everyone is beginning to think: “I really need a break.”

As companies lay off Americans by the millions, it’s probably not a great idea to take an extended vacation right now, especially since you can’t actually leave your home. But using a vacation day or two to reset is possible — and probably necessary. You just need to go about it the right way.

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Do I really “deserve” a vacation?

Right now, you need to be extra-clear about what your needs are — with your coworkers, your bosses, and yourself.

If you need to take a mental health day so you can focus better at work or spend a day helping your child struggling with school, say so.

“Be unapologetic. You’ve been producing at the same rate this entire time so it’s totally appropriate to ask for a day off,” says Brenda Abdilla, a career and leadership coach.

Your boss will probably get it. But if you get pushback, remind your manager— kindly—that this crisis is unprecedented.

“There is no blueprint for how to behave in this kind of environment,” says Samantha Ettus, founder and CEO of Park Place Payments.

Be sensitive and reasonable, but if you need to, stand up for yourself.

But I’m already bored as it is …

It’s easy to fall into a slump when there’s zero structure in your life outside of work.

Creating a project for yourself can be a great, low-stakes way to take your mind off of work — it’s scientifically proven that dopamine, the “feel good” hormone, spikes when you accomplish a task. So it’s not a bad idea to set one or two doable (and enjoyable!) non-work goals for yourself during your time off.

Maybe your bathroom needs a good deep scrub, or you’re itching to start painting again. You can even take the time to zhuzh up your home office (or … kitchen table).

“More likely than not, you’ll be at home for a while,” says Ettus. “So it’s not a bad idea to take time to create a really solid work space.”

If you’re operating with minimal space, Ettus recommends finding a place in your home with good lighting, comfortable seating, and as much privacy as possible. You can even set up some sort of barrier (welcome back, baby gate) or make a sign that lets the people in your home know you’re working and need privacy.

Isn’t the point of vacation to NOT think about work?

Workaholics tend to use high-anxiety situations like the COVID-19 pandemic to work with more urgency — and they end up overexerting themselves.

“If you’ve been in total hyper-mode, you really need to spend some time doing the opposite,” says Abdilla.

Think of a regular vacation you’d take. When you splay out on the beach or read by the pool, the intention is to relax. A day off at home might not feel the same, but if you’ve spent the last few weeks working overtime, putting aside some time to just veg out in front of the TV isn’t a bad idea.

“Resistance to taking time off right now is natural — but you have to push past it,” says Abdilla. “Don’t let your mind trick you into thinking that rest doesn’t matter.”

What if I still feel stressed out?

Remember the Serenity Prayer? “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change” …? Well, there’s no time like the present.

An extra day or two of non-work projects or relaxing on the couch will never compare to exploring a new city or making memories around a campfire with your family. But accepting what you have can help relieve the stress of the unknown and make you feel more refreshed when you return to your job.

“You don’t need to spin the situation into a positive one because it’s not,” says Abdilla. “But the act of slowing down and letting go of that frenetic energy is really pleasurable.”

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