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Sharp Health News

Prioritizing leisure time during the pandemic

Feb. 25, 2021

Man playing the guitar while sitting on a couch
One year into the pandemic, some of the new hobbies you picked up at the beginning of stay-at-home orders may be losing their spark. However, maintaining leisure time is good for your mental health.

“It’s important to understand the value of leisure time,” says Erica Price, recreational therapist and supervisor of Recreation Therapy Services at Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital. “Finding balance between work and play, and nurturing a healthy leisure lifestyle, help us manage stress, reduce burnout and increase productivity.”

So, how can we shake up our leisure time?

Balance is key
As with most things, balance is key, even for our free time.

“Switching among activities indoors and outdoors, alone or with others, can help support our mental health as we make attempts to get out of the house or connect with others,” says Price.

According to Price, it’s helpful to think of leisure within 5 domains, making sure to nurture each:
  1. Physical
  2. Social
  3. Emotional/Psychological
  4. Mental/Cognitive
  5. Spiritual
“If we identify at least one or two things we enjoy doing in each of these domains, we can then rotate through the activities,” says Price. “Not only does this disrupt a stagnant routine and provide balance, it ensures that we acquire the numerous benefits across the domains, which will help to increase wellness, support mental and physical health, and so much more.”

This focus also includes limiting screen time to open up opportunities to engage in more productive recreation.

“When all of our activities are ones we do alone, sedentary and in front of a screen, we can increase isolation, which can make a healthy leisure activity unhealthy,” says Price. “Set an amount of screen time and then consider engaging in an active or social activity, such as going for a walk with a family member or pet.”

The same concerns hold true for those who are always on the go. These individuals tend to carry this mentality over to their days off.

“This mentality can lead to burnout,” says Price. “On days off, try giving yourself an allotted time for chores you want to tackle, such as 4 hours to grocery shop and do laundry, and then plan something afterward for yourself.”

Productive leisure
To be productive simply means to produce results. We often associate this with work and tasks we need to get done; however, it can be equally applied to our leisure time.

“Leisure activities are those activities that we are not obligated to do, but do because we enjoy them and they evoke happiness,” says Price. “Using your leisure time to engage in productive tasks to take care of yourself is just as important as productive tasks we accomplish at work.”

An example of productive leisure is volunteering. Most people who engage in volunteer work report feeling good about themselves and enjoy seeing the results of their efforts in real time.

Exercise is another productive leisure activity.

“Any time we engage in physical activity, we are being productive and engaging in something that will benefit us both mentally and physically,” says Price. “Productive leisure can also be to engage in creative outlets, such as cooking, organizing and cleaning out neglected areas of the home — all of which produce results and leave us feeling accomplished.”

Try something new
A tried-and-true solution to reboot leisure activities is to try something new, which helps us open our minds and allows us to learn and grow.

“Trying new things not only breaks up monotony, but also increases our self-esteem when we branch out, face fears and conquer things we once thought we could not do,” says Price.

Price suggests being open to trying new things or going back to an old hobby you have not picked up for years due to being “too busy.”

“These have been unprecedented and stressful times, and no one should feel guilty for using time solely for joy and happiness; in fact, we should make sure we are scheduling it,” says Price.

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