While taking breaks from work and recharging is incredibly important for our well-being (and for preventing burnout) planning time off from work can be deceptively stressful. Making sure everything gets done and accounted for before you leave can cause anxiety, especially on those occasions when you’re off but it’s business-as-usual at your workplace — and you know you’ll be getting emails all day.

So we asked members of the Thrive Global community to share how they make their time off from work stress-free, before and during their PTO.

Build fun into your planning

“Extend the feeling of joy associated with the actual vacation into the preparation for it. Set aside one hour to have fun mentally walking through what needs to be covered, then jot down all the details that need to be taken care of. Then, using your phone, send and schedule out all the emails, texts, reminder settings, etc., that are required to cover your list. With each calendar item set and email confirmation back that all is handled, place a checkmark on your list. When you frame this activity as a joyful part of your vacation, you begin with a clear and peaceful mind, and end with a beautiful sense of accomplishment, all contained in one sit-down session. Exhale!”

—Mary Petto, speaker, coach, and author, Marlboro, NJ

Plan time off that fills a need

“When planning for stress-free time off work, understanding and fully respecting your own way of de-stressing and recharging is important. For example, when I was working in a busy open office environment, the last thing I wanted to do when I was away from work was to be with others, so I would plan activities that I could do by myself. Now that I’m a solo entrepreneur with a home office, my idea of stress-free time off work is being with friends and family, having great conversations, and sharing new experiences. I think we really need to know ourselves and give ourselves full permission to enjoy our time away — regardless of what others try to convince us to do, which may even be more stressful for us.”

—Pat Obuchowski, executive coach and author, San Francisco, CA

Put your phone (and notifications) away

“If there were an Oscar for people who wear productivity as a badge of honor, it would be on my mantle. I’m always trying to multitask and maximize my time, even in the car. Now that I have teen drivers, I there’s no end to the free advice I receive about my fidgeting with a phone in the car and, well, virtually everywhere. To assuage my responsible teenagers, I have turned on the feature where I won’t receive notifications in the car. So in the same spirit, I’ve also made a commitment to leave my phone, iPad or computer in my office when we play games or watch movies. Last time we went on a road trip, I left my phone in my bag — I didn’t touch it. Instead, I spent the whole time talking and singing with the kids. The net equation for me in 2019 is to be where I am. That’s it. Be where you are.”

—Donna Carlson, life strategy coach, Colorado Springs, CO

Don’t overplan a day meant for relaxation

“The first thing I do is avoid overplanning the day when I want to relax. I keep things in broad strokes: spend time with a friend, take a long walk, listen to music by a particular artist. I create intentions for the day. I focus on being in the moment.”

—Tom Franklin, oil industry, Houston, TX

Put playtime on your calendar

“I plan for stress-free time off by programming it into both my daily schedule and master calendar. Playtime and rest are always on my to-do list. On some days, it may only be a few minutes, but it’s always factored into my life, whether it’s meditation, a beach walk, or reading. Prioritizing fun is also super important. Dancing is one of my passions and if I can’t get out to dance, I bring the disco to my kitchen and bust some moves as I cook with my family. Not only does it relieve stress and make us laugh, but it also bonds us. It’s the little things…”

—Lisa Cypers Kamen, optimal lifestyle management expert, Los Angeles, CA

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  • Marina Khidekel

    Chief Content Officer at Thrive

    Marina leads strategy, ideation and execution of Thrive's content company-wide, including cross-platform brand partnership and content marketing campaigns, curricula, and the voice of the Thrive platform. She's the author of Thrive's first book, Your Time to Thrive. In her role, Marina brings Thrive's audience actionable, science-backed tips for reducing stress and improving their physical and mental well-being, and shares those insights on panels and in national outlets like NBC's TODAY. Previously, Marina held senior editorial roles at Women's Health, Cosmopolitan, and Glamour, where she edited award-winning health and mental health features and spearheaded the campaigns and partnerships around them.