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Carving out downtime

female smiling leaning back against wall with hands behind bed and headphones around her neck

Fall is one of the busiest times of the year, and that means it can be hard to carve out a little downtime to relax and recharge. However, study after study shows that doing so is important to combating stress, which can dampen our immune systems and make us more susceptible to disease. And as we are about to head into cold and flu season, making time for you is even more important.

So, how can you fit some down time into your schedule? Follow these steps to lighten your load and treat yourself right:

♦ Be honest with your schedule
Make a list of your non-negotiable weekly tasks— those that absolutely must get done, like laundry, paying bills and taking the kids to school. Then make a list of your negotiable activities and rate each on a scale from 1 to 10 (10 being the most rewarding and 1 being the least). These activities could include exercise, friend lunches, golf, reading or baking—to name only a few.

♦ Edit your activities 
The next step is to eliminate the lower-rated activities (1 or 2) for the week. For items rated 3 to 5, decide if they are really important to you by examining your motivation for doing them. For example, attending every one of your daughter’s dance classes or helping a friend pack for a move. If these items are a priority, then keep them on the list. 

♦ Accept good enough 
Activities rated 6 through 8 should be the things that you enjoy but don't have time to perform perfectly. For example, baking treats for your child’s school party. To lighten the load, go the store-bought route. Or, if you promised to have lunch with an old colleague, make it a quicker brunch date. This tip is all about doing what is enjoyable to you, while not sucking up your valuable downtime. 

♦ Make room for downtime 
Here’s the fun part...scheduling time for activities rated 9 or 10 on your list. These activities represent your “downtime Dos.” They offer peace and a sense of being able to handle the other parts of your life that are more stressful. These activities could include taking a nap, reading a good book or spending time with your children playing outside. Make time for highly rated items to help reduce stress and bring more joy to your life. 

Just like carving your Halloween pumpkin, carving out space for downtime activities takes thought and commitment. If you follow the steps above, you will be on your way to recharged and maybe just a little bit healthier!

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