The phone’s ringing, emails are popping up, and there’s a pile of bills that need to be taken care of. The laundry list of to-dos just keeps getting longer, both at work and at home, and there seems to be no way out. Your muscles are hurting and your jaw is tight, and you may just be thinking, “Why can’t I just get away?”

If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. It may be that you’re among the one in four U.S. workers who don’t currently earn paid vacation. Or it may be that a vacation away just isn’t within your budget. Whatever the reason, not taking a vacation is surely taking a toll.

So what do you do?

Making Time for a Break

Even if you don’t feel as though you have the time, it’s important to carve some minutes, hours or days for yourself into your schedule. This could take shape in an evening, a dedicated day, or a single weekend. However it suits you, pen in — no pencils here — time for rest and relaxation, and do not even for a second feel guilty about it.

If you’re starved for ideas, take a look at this list of 15 things to give you a break when you can’t take a vacation.

In an Evening

  1. Go to a Class

Lifelong learning has been proven to have many health benefits, including a renewed sense of purpose and a more positive outlook. Taking a class on a subject you’re interested in, whether it’s pottery, a foreign language, or local economics, can help you refocus your energies on where you’d like to see yourself go.

  1. See a Band

Invite a pal to go with you for a night of jazz, rock or whatever music you enjoy most. Music is known to help reduce your cortisol levels, a hormone that increases when you are stressed. So whether it’s rocking out on your television at home — you’re encouraged to dance — or heading out to a local venue, music is sure to help you take a much-needed break.

  1. Meet Up for Coffee

Sometimes all it takes is a cup of coffee and a listening ear. If you’ve got a friend who always seems to help you chill out and unwind, invite them out to the local coffee shop. Friendships are important, as they can offer support, boost happiness and increase longevity of life.

  1. Indulge in Your Favorite Hobby

Is there an activity you love that you never feel like you have time to do? Now’s the time. Grab that sewing machine, coloring book, paint brush or stamp collection and get started on — or finally finish — that project.

  1. Color

There’s a new trend out there for adults to start coloring pages just like kids. And it’s a good trend, too. Why? It’s catching on because coloring can provide therapy, helping adults relieve stress and reengage their thoughts on something positive.

In a Day

  1. Go Geocaching

If you like treasure hunts, geocaching is the ultimate treasure hunt. Spanning across the globe, there are nearly 2 million caches to be found. A day of hunting can renew your sense of adventure and make you feel connected to a larger population of treasure-seekers.

  1. Seek Out Hometown Factory Tours

Factory tours are loads of fun, especially when they’re in your hometown. Have a pretzel place down the road or someone who makes great chocolates? Check in and see if you can get a first-hand look at the process.

  1. Visit Your Local National Park

The U.S. currently has 58 national parks to boast of, which leads one to guess that there’s a national park near you. Go hiking or canoeing and enjoy the great outdoors, as well as experience a boost in mood and productivity following your time in the sun.

  1. Treat Yourself to a Massage

Sixteen percent of Americans talk to their doctors about massage therapy in a year’s time. Why? Because it has incredible benefits, including increased functionality of the immune system, decreased blood pressure and fewer headaches. Make your appointment today.

In a Weekend

  1. Create an Outdoor Movie Theater

If you need something a little less traditional, invite some close friends over for an outdoor movie. The stats about the health benefits of close friendships are clear — and can be found up above — so create the ultimate bonding experience with a few blankets, some popcorn and a good flick.

  1. Host an Indoor Campout

The weather may not always cooperate when you’re in need of a break. Should the weather be less than desirable, consider building a fort in your living room for an indoor campout. Keep electronic devices out of reach and unwind in your new space just as you would in a hotel.

  1. Read

Research shows that reading can reduce stress by 68 percent. Read that line again: 68 percent. So what are you waiting for? Grab your favorite Jane Austen novel and hit the books full throttle. Nothing on the shelves looking great? Head over to your local library for some free weekend entertainment.

  1. Start a Journal

Stress can be partially managed through this simple task: Keeping a journal. Write down your stressors, even if it’s for 5 minutes a day over the weekend, and describe things that you see, think or feel in the day. Writing can improve your mood and help you let go if any issues that are currently weighing you down.

  1. Focus on Your Pet

There are a number of studies out there that show how pets can be beneficial for their caregivers. The benefits range from fewer health problems to increased exercise and activity. If you’re lucky enough to have a furry friend roaming around with you, give them some extra love and attention this weekend, and you’ll both reap the benefits.

  1. Disconnect

The catch-22 of living in a world that is so conveniently connected is it makes it nearly impossible to disconnect. This can leave you feeling overwhelmed with a need to meet the demands of every communication coming your way. The best way to decompress and let go of this activity for the weekend is to simply relay a message that you’ll be away (even if you aren’t away away), and then shut it off.

Vacations are necessary to relieve stress and rejuvenate the mind and body. Without them, your health may be at risk. The best way to get a break is to take a mini-vacation, one that doesn’t necessarily require the loss of paid time off but one that gets you rest and gives you a well-deserved boost.

Try incorporating these ideas into your own mini-vacation, and share your ideas for a well-deserved break in the comments!  


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Sarah Landrum is the founder of Punched Clocks.

2 Comments on No PTO? How to Get the Break You Need

  1. Jennee Rasavong
    March 5, 2016 at 3:26 am (5 years ago)

    Hi Sarah,

    I was just lamenting about this very topic earlier this week! While I do earn paid vacation, finding the resources to go away on a trip isn’t always easy.

    I like the array of options you’ve given to cover a night, day or weekend – sometimes, a weekend of complete disconnect is enough to recharge your soul!

    Enjoyed reading this post.


    • Sarah Landrum
      March 7, 2016 at 12:55 pm (5 years ago)

      Thanks so much, Jennee! Glad you liked it! I agree, a weekend away or even just totally disconnected is a much-needed break every once in awhile!


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