Work hard, play hard. As we spend our days trying to juggle our careers, schoolwork, and family obligations with the everyday minutiae of our lives, the former prescription has the tendency to eclipse the latter, with the coveted work-life balance seeming like a floating dream that sits just out of reach. Additionally, many of us are guilty of viewing leisure as an indulgence rather than as a necessity. In reality, recreational time is equally as important as our work, and is an essential component to our health and happiness.
Merriam Webster defines “leisure” as the “freedom provided by cessation of activities...especially time free from work or duties.” By giving ourselves permission to unplug, we free our minds from our daily burdens, and in doing so, we combat stress — that insidious, silent killer to our health that, according to Gallup, plagues the majority of American workers, with nearly sixty percent reporting that they feel work-related stress on a daily basis. These numbers have been particularly exacerbated by the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic of the past year-and-a-half. The severe toll that ongoing stress takes on our wellness can not be overstated. Now more than ever, investing in our leisure time is an investment in our physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
Setting aside time for ourselves shouldn't leave us feeling unproductive, however. Leisure time doesn’t mean lazy time! Leisure not only provides freedom from work, but also the freedom to cultivate the things that we truly love. For some, this entails reading a book, quietly meditating, or scrapbooking. For others, it means gardening, hitting the gym, or finding other fun ways to nurture their physical health, such as dance classes or hiking. As an avid baker myself, mixing it up in the kitchen is how I most prefer to unplug. Whatever you choose, prioritize quality time over quantity. Any enjoyable activity that enables us to step back, relax, and de-stress, is time well spent.
It's time we start viewing the moments we spend on recreation as equally productive as the time we spend on our work. If we stop treating leisure time as a reward for our hard work, but rather as the harmonious counterpart to it, we will realize that investing in quality leisure is the key to being our best selves, and improving our quality of life. So, I encourage all of us to work hard. And then, make some time for play.
Alina is a junior at Alpharetta High School and Editor in Chief of the school’s literary news magazine.