Still exhausted even though you’ve already been off work for two weeks? Having a tough time feeling rejuvenated?
Ask yourself these 4 questions. During my time off, did I:
- Relax or de-stress my body? YES NO
- Disconnect from work physically and/or emotionally? YES NO
- Do something that challenged me? YES NO
- Decide exactly how I’d spend my time, if even for a very short time? YES NO
These questions are adapted from the Recovery Experience Questionnaire1,2, which was developed to measure the psychological factors, or recovery experiences, involved in unwinding and restoring the energy expended at work. Researchers have identified 4 essential recovery experiences: relaxation, detachment, mastery, and control1.
Relaxation is about soothing stress in the body and slowing down the heart.
Detachment is about shifting focus away from work.
Mastery is about developing skills and fostering a sense of accomplishment.
Control is about making one’s own decisions about what to do.
Let’s see if this research can help you get the most out of your winter break!
Go back to the 4 questions above, and for each one you answered NO, try building in some of the corresponding recovery experience before you go back to work.
If you answered NO to question 1, try working on your RELAXATION.
- Take 10 deep breaths, down into the belly. Exhale more slowly and fully each time.
- Tense and release your muscles, starting at your feet and working up to your face.
- Do a little burst of exercise. Get your heart pumping, then feel it slow down.
For question 2, try a strategy to DETACH from work.
- Create a work-free zone at home: no laptops/books/papers (or close the office door).
- Go for a short walk and tune into the surroundings. Use your five senses as a guide.
- Visualize ‘leaving yourself’ at work: First, call up an image of yourself working, from your perspective. Take in all the details. Now imagine seeing yourself from a bird’s-eye view, frozen but ready to resume work as the rest of you ‘flies away’ to recover.
For question 3, you might want to shoot for more MASTERY.
- Pick a small project or task that is challenging but not exhausting.
- Write down all the steps needed to complete it.
- Check off each step as you complete it.
For question 4, try taking a little more CONTROL over your schedule.
- Decide on a short block of time, even as little as 15 minutes.
- Arrange for child care, make an “Off Duty” sign, put your phone in airplane mode.
- Do whatever you want! This is YOUR time.
It can be tough to make changes and prioritize well-being. If it was easy, we’d all be doing it! Remember: you don’t have to do this perfectly to benefit from it. And it’s never too late. Research shows that taking a concrete action to recover from work today can be effective even when you have to work tomorrow. You deserve it!
1. Sonnentag, S., & Fritz, C. (2007). The Recovery Experience Questionnaire: Development and validation of a measure for assessing recuperation and unwinding from work. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 12, 204–221. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/1076-89188.8.131.52
2. Sonnentag, S., Venz, L., & Casper, A. (2017). Advances in recovery research: What have we learned? What should be done next? Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 22(3), 365-380. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/ocp0000079