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Playcation Strategies for Stress Relief

Need a Playcation? Here's The 'How' and 'Why'

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Updated December 28, 2011

With widespread financial stress, increased job stress and fear of layoffs, many people are scaling down their vacation plans. According to a recent survey conducted by Kelton Research and commissioned by Dave and Busters (full disclosure: I've worked with Dave and Busters professionally), among a nationwide sample of 1000 respondents, while 1 in 3 say that they need a good dose of fun even more than they need financial relief, 70% aren't planning on going anywhere for the summer. And, given that almost 4 in 5 admit that they don't have as much fun in their daily lives as they'd like, this is unfortunate.

Why Is Fun Important?

More than just disappointing, this is concerning because it's important for people to take breaks from work and to have regular fun in their lives in order to maintain balance. When having fun, we experience a kind of stress--known as 'eustress'--that's actually good for us. Eustress, which is the type of stress that we experience when meeting a challenge, riding a roller coaster, or experiencing excitement, can keep us feeling vital and alive, can help stave off burnout, and can bring people closer and strengthen relationships. Taking breaks, blowing off steam, and experiencing eustress can also help us combat chronic stress, which is the type of stress that leads to health problems. So, while many of us think of having fun as something to do when we have 'spare time' (which often never comes), having fun should actually become a priority that's worked into our schedules along with our other responsibilities, as a way of maintaining a balanced lifestyle.

Take A 'Playcation'

This is why I recommend, rather than taking a vacation (if you can't afford one), or in addition to taking a staycation (where you stay home and relax), you also plan a 'playcation', where you stay in your hometown, but plan fun events with family and friends. 'Playcationing' with your loved ones can help you strengthen your social bonds (social support is important for stress management), experience eustress (instead of more damaging types of stress), and blow off some steam while enjoying new experiences.

Ingredients of a Good Playcation

For a playcation to be enjoyable and effective for stress relief, I recommend you include a few key ingredients:
  • Friends or Family: Be sure that you have fun people with you. If you're a busy parent with a child who's involved in many activities, spending extra time together having fun may be something you all need. And spending time with your friends can create stronger bonds that can translate to a deeper sense of community, and greater support should you face a crisis. Strong social bonds can lead to greater resilience toward stress.
  • Affordability: You don't have to spend a lot of money to have fun. In fact, if you're low on cash, spending too much money can put extra pressure on you, and the 'fun' can feel forced. Think creatively, maintain a playful attitude and a sense of humor, and you can find affordable ways to have a fun playcation.
  • Playful Attitude: Sometimes it's not what you do, but the attitude you bring to your activities. If you seek out activities that are more active than passive (going on a hike rather than being passively entertained by a movie), or more interactive than solitary (a group activity, for example), you may find that it's easier to maintain a fun, playful attitude and feel connected with those around you. Remember to create your own fun as you go!

Playcation Suggestions

Taking regular breaks for fun is important. You don't have to wait for summer or a special occasion; scheduling regular fun activities into your lifestyle is doable and brings a real payoff. While there are many things you can do to have fun, I have a few suggestions for you. Here are some ideas you can try for a fun-filled staycation:
  • Game Night: I'm a big fan of games because they promote bonding, decrease self-consciousness and can even get you moving and exercising. You can go out to a place like Dave and Buster's, a bowling alley or a billiards room for a game night 'on the town', or you can have people to your house for a night of Cranium, dominoes or even games on the Wii. (I do this once a week, and swear by it!)
  • Geocaching: People who try geocaching tend to get hooked. It's like a modern-day treasure hunt. You just get a GPS mobile tracking device and a group of friends or family, and end up searching your hometown for 'hidden treasures'. (Actually, you just leave a stamp that you've been there--the hunt is where the fun comes from.) Geocaching is fun because it provides an opportunity to explore, get exercise, and even compare notes with other geocachers--a bonding experience!
  • Classes: There's something wonderful and satisfying about learning something new, and there are classes in most communities on a variety of subjects that can be a lot of fun. Cooking classes where you share your creations, dancing classes where you learn a new style of dance while getting exercise, even martial arts classes for adults can be a lot of fun. Sign up for a class with family or friends, or sign up solo as a way to meet new people, and you'll find yourself taking a 'mini-playcation' each week. What a great way to bring some fun into your life!

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