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15-Minute Vacations

  <small><a href="">Cardiovascular system photo by shutterstock</a>.</small>For those of us who have a 9-to-5 indoor job, it can sometimes feel like summer is passing us by. If we already took a vacation, it can seem like a distant memory. If a vacation week is a month away, it can feel like an elusive dream.

From the time we enter the building, we’re occupied with meetings, tasks, work-related problems and all the usual stresses that go with them. It’s not until we emerge into the sunshine and perhaps a blast of summer heat that we are reminded that, yeah, it’s summer.

Stop! It’s summer. There’s no need to limit our enjoyment of the change of weather and change of pace of summer to a week or two of time off. Some regular 15-minute “vacations” can stretch out that summertime feeling well before and beyond our official vacation break.

Six ways to renew and relax:

  1. Get outside. I know. It can be tempting to work through a break or lunch in order to get on top of whatever is in your in box, especially if you feel behind. But it’s often counterproductive. When you take a break, you come back to a task refreshed and renewed. A 10- or 15-minute walk in the sun can do wonders for mind and spirit. Get out there. Lift your face to the sun. Take in those rays of light and the dose of vitamin D that comes with them. Breathe. If it’s really hot out there, you’ll appreciate the AC even more when you go back in. If it’s merely warm, you’ll enjoy the chance to be in nature for a few minutes–even if it’s only under the lone tree in the parking lot.
  2. Drink a summertime beverage mindfully. To be mindful means to be fully present in the moment. It means letting go of the past as something that is already gone and setting aside concerns for the future, a time that hasn’t yet happened. By shifting our focus to “now,” we can relax and de-stress. Get yourself a glass of lemonade or iced tea. Sit quietly. Really focus on how the cool glass feels in your hand. Take a sip. Feel the clink of the ice on your teeth. Hold the liquid in your mouth. Savor it. Really taste the taste. Swallow and relax into your chair. Take a deep, slow breath. Take another sip. Make that glass of summer flavor last for 15 minutes. The goal is to totally take your mind away from everything else for just 15 minutes. When the time is up, you’ll go back to whatever you need to do more relaxed and more able to focus.
  3. Get near water. There’s something about water that soothes and relaxes. Scientists will tell you it has to do with the negative ions. Children will tell you it just feels good on a hot day. Whatever. You don’t need to wait until you can spend a day at the beach to get to the water. If you are fortunate enough to live near a lake, pond or stream, take a few minutes on your way to or from work to stop for a few minutes and sit nearby. Breathe in. Breathe out. Enjoy the change in atmosphere.No natural water within miles? Get yourself a kiddie pool or a bucket. When you get home from a hard day at work, strip off your shoes and socks and sit with your feet in the water. Let your imagination take you to your favorite beach or creek or river. Breathe in. Breathe out. Give yourself a 15-minute meditation time to cool off and have a moment of summer.
  4. Eat alfresco. If you have a yard or a nearby park or a balcony (and it’s not 100 degrees out there), take your dinner outside. Slow your pace. Enjoy having a leisurely meal with nature as your dinner companion. No table? Have a picnic. Spread a blanket and enjoy a simple meal while the sun goes down.
  5. Take advantage of the longer days. In many parts of the world, it’s just too hot to go for a walk or play tag with the kids before the sun goes down. But wait a few hours and the temperature drops at least a little. Think about a late-night walk or just taking 15 minutes to sit outside and enjoy the evening light.
  6. Sleep outside. In my part of New England, many of the older homes have what is referred to as a “sleeping porch.” A screened-in porch, often on the second floor, is equipped with cots for summertime sleeping. If you have such a porch or if you can stake a tent in your yard, think about spending some of your nights outdoors. The 15 minutes it takes to fall asleep while watching stars or listening to tree frogs is a summertime treat.
15-Minute Vacations

Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D.

Marie Hartwell-WalkerDr. Marie Hartwell-Walker is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. She writes regularly for Psych Central as well as Psych Central's Ask the Therapist feature. She is author of the insightful parenting e-book, Tending the Family Heart.

Check out her book, Unlocking the Secrets of Self-Esteem.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, M. (2018). 15-Minute Vacations. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 13, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Oct 2018 (Originally: 17 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Oct 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.