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Overstuffing our weekends seems to be a rite of passage. Like ordering one’s Chipotle burrito, we fill it with all our favorite stuff, only to fall into a giant coma of exhaustion afterward. While sometimes inevitable—and a treat for some weekends—over-scheduling is a practice that many of us don’t realize we’ve formed into a bad habit until another Monday comes around, and we’re left with busyness indigestion that spills into our weekdays, making us sluggish and regretful at work.

We understand that not every weekend can be a rejuvenating trip to the mental spa. But there comes a time when we need to take a real-life break but don’t have the bandwidth or budget for a full vacay. The good news, is you don’t have to get out of town—or even spend big bucks—to vacate your normal life for a bit.

I interviewed women who’ve mastered successful staycations. Here’s what they said about how to maximize your two (or three) days off.

01. Defend your staycation.

“For me, the hardest part about having a weekend to relax was making time for it,” shares Lisa, 25, who works in advertising in Seattle. “Anytime I told people that I was ‘doing nothing,’ my weekend would somehow get booked up with other things.” 

Lisa claims that saying she’s doing nothing was essentially an open invitation to others to plan something. Once she became proactively intentional in defending her time, she was able to really take time off to relax. “I recommend planning your weekend a bit in advance. Depending on your schedule—for instance, if you have kids, a husband, a dog—you might have to schedule further in advance than you would if you were living the single, pet-free life like me.” Moreover, planning allows you to look forward to it—like a real vacation you might anticipate, which can enhance the whole experience.

02. Put the electronics down—and let go of the guilt and fear.

It’s harder than ever to unplug. Because people don’t plan in advance like they used to, it’s easy to get sidetracked and find yourself either having FOMO or feeling guilty for not instantly responding to Snapchats and texts. Just because you’ve cleared your schedule to make time for yourself doesn’t mean that it’s going to stay all yours.

“Commit to staying off the grid. In my case, I even went as far as to put an automatic reply on my email. Yes! I know it was just a weekend . . . but it made me feel much better,” says Katie, 27, a Ph.D. candidate in economics in New York, who took a full weekend without any electronics last summer. Those who’ve lost their phones for a few days or have intentionally checked out know the secret wonders that JOMO provides.

03. Schedule and limit your social interactions.

While no one is necessarily a pure introvert and/or extrovert—knowing which way you lean can make or break your staycation. While a quiet weekend might be harder for an extrovert to commit to, it’s still beneficial (see number four!). But there’s no need to emulate a monk. Now can be a great time to schedule some “light” quality time with people who matter most to you—think, a coffee date with your significant other, brunch with your sister, or a Skype convo with your college bestie.

“Be selective about whom you decide to share your time with,” advises Brittany, 32, a finance controller in Cincinnati. “Of course this applies to any time in your life, but if you’re trying to really take a break and use the weekend to reboot, hang out with a friend or relative who uplifts you—or call someone who makes you feel at peace.”

04. Embrace quietude.

“Silent” is so much more than a cell phone setting (which you should take advantage of this weekend!). In fact, it is possibly one of the most underrated joys of the modern life. It relieves stress and tension—even more than “relaxing music,” allows us to tap into our creative mental state, and recent studies show that it can even rejuvenate our brain cells.

It feel like we’re constantly in low supply of it, with ever-present beeps, buzzes, and alerts. Learning how to fall in love with silence can be one of the most powerful ways to reboot during your staycation weekend. “If it’s reasonable weather—go outside and simply meditate, pray, or read,” Lisa says. “I had forgotten how awesome uninterrupted silence can be, and the best place to get that is outside.” If you don’t know where to start—just try taking a walk in a park without music or a chatty friend; better yet, invite her to enjoy the silence with you.

05. Create the best morning routine ever.

You know those awesomely inspiring weekday morning productivity routines we’re always reading about? Well, this staycation could be the perfect time to start practicing one. Katie shares that her weekend reboot was inspired by wanting to finesse a quality morning routine.

“I won’t lie, mastering a morning routine didn’t exactly take off perfectly that following Monday, but using a Saturday and Sunday to practice it really made a difference.” She now brags that her mornings are a vast improvement. “I never was a morning person before, and now I actually get things done and have time to eat breakfast and do some reading.” Using the weekend to practice these kinds of rituals can take the pressure off your workweek and let you explore in confidence how you really want your typical mornings to go. “It can really help you take ownership of your week . . . and make that first Monday try a lot easier,” Katie adds.

06. Latch on to low-hanging fruit.

You know that museum you’ve always wanted to stop by but never had time for? A staycation is the perfect time to knock that low-hanging fruit off your bucket list. Mary, 28, a writer and mom in Chicago, mentioned how she finally went on an architectural tour during her weekend off.

“It made me look at my city in an entirely different light,” she says—which set the tone for the entire weekend. Brittany adds that it doesn’t necessarily have to be anything big. “Try changing up a habit. If you’re a jogger, consider trying a new route—anything that might spark some change,” and consequently, some excitement.

07. Master the art of winding down for the night.

While productive morning routines might be getting all the spotlight and glory—let us not neglect how a staycation can be the optimal time to learn a good nighttime routine, too. Which includes going to bed early(ish).

“If you’re doing a weekend reboot for the first time, I understand how someone can feel really lame by trying to go to bed early on a Saturday,” Brittany says. “But, it’s the perfect time to get in a good groove for the week.” Plus, sometimes there’s nothing better than waking up early(ish) on a weekend, to the awesome sound of sleepy silence.

As a productive, busy woman, sometimes taking time for yourself can lead to more mental clutter. It’s so easy to fall into the busy-ness trap and put your own needs last. Yet, if you get in the habit of letting busy weekends destroy your weeks, it leads to frustration and stress—which only makes you less in control of your life.

While taking a full reboot might seem like an enviable luxury that’s not in the cards for you right now, think about taking small steps—a quiet Saturday morning or a relaxing Sunday evening, void of errands and obligations. While we all love fun and productive weekends, decompressing is just as important and valuable to your well-being as a fun-filled, full-on vacation.

Photo Credit: Alex Mazurov