Take a brain break

If you can't escape the rat race, a change of mind proves (almost) as good as a holiday.

Are you long overdue for a holiday? If you have to force yourself to get out of bed, you probably are.

Maybe you'd love to head for the beach or book a cruise. But, like a lot of people, your finances may be stretched already. A true holiday is not possible for a while.

Learning to take "mini holidays" by giving your mind a rest can help. For example, meeting your friends to sit and chat for an hour, reading a novel, or watching a movie in a quiet house all alone are excellent ways to escape.

Your relationships can start to turn sour if you need comfort and rest. You'll tend to yell at the kids or feel more aggravated with co-workers. You may feel like pouring a third glass of wine or drinking a six-pack, too.

"I can never take off a whole day," says a small business owner we'll call Chad. "If I pulled the plug for 24 hours right now, my business would slow down. If I left for a whole day, my employees would nap until I returned."

Chad says he's learned to take what he calls "brain breaks". He leaves work at 3:30 to catch an afternoon movie before going home, or he'll go sit on a fishing dock near his neighbourhood just to sit and enjoy the lake view.

"Hiding out in the public library for 90 minutes helps, too," Chad explains. "Grabbing just a few minutes to crank up good music or stopping at a coffee shop for 30 minutes works as well."

While brain breaks can't replace a longer holiday, they do help sustain emotional balance.

A factory worker we'll call Don says he came close to a breakdown. "I was working 12-hour days and coming home to chores and family problems on top of an aching back."

Don told his family he needs 30 minutes to lie down when he first comes home.

"I give out family hugs before I collapse across the bed," laughs Don. "This way, my wife and kids won't think I'm ignoring them. I explained to them that I feel drained and all tapped out after work. I need 30 minutes to soothe myself and feel like me again."

When Don started working long shifts, his wife told him she would cook during the week. This way, Don can take over cooking on the weekends because he's off every weekend.

"My wife has a less stressful job, so she's an angel to take over during weekdays," says Don. "On weekends, she takes a break by spending Saturday afternoons with her girlfriends. I take care of the kids while she's gone. Then, on Saturday and Sunday nights, we watch a movie as a family."

In today's busy world, children need brain breaks as well. Fighting and bickering among siblings can escalate if kids are tired from school, sports, and stressful issues with friends.

"I love the backyard tree house my mum and her friends built me," says a 10-year-old we'll call Evan. "My dad was too busy to build it, but my mum told me I needed one. She's the best mum in the world."

Evan's mum, Kathy, says she has plenty of peaceful childhood memories from the tree house her uncles built for her.

"It's a little paradise that doesn't cost a whole lot," she emphasises. "You can build one from recycled materials. Build it strong, though, because it's a good place for adults to climb up and hide out, too!"