Intentional Wellness Breaks – A Lesson from COVID-19

By Jessica Searcy Kmetty

After weeks of lockdown, I’m sure the last thing people are thinking about is taking a sabbatical.

Traditionally seen in academic fields, sabbaticals have become popular in recent years as both an employee benefit and as a mid-career break for professionals. But, what if they were built into the normal tempo of life in a similar fashion like summer vacations?

Throughout the Coronavirus quarantine, many have found a new, slower pace as the entire globe slowed down to a crawl. Schools closed and many businesses sent their employees home.

I was on a Zoom call with 20 or so female professionals in mid-April, when the topic of conversation shifted to things we will change or do differently when life gets back to “normal”. It was astonishing to me the number of people who echoed a sentiment that they want to be slower, more intentional, and overall less busy.

The silver lining of not having soccer games, gymnastics, school sports, traveling from meeting to meeting and rushing from here to there every single day is that it’s given people a chance to evaluate their overall happiness and reflect on what does and does not matter in their daily lives.

It has also allowed us to reconsider how we do things.

As we emerge from the shut-down, I suspect that some will consider what it might look like to be more intentional in taking well-timed breaks from the hamster wheel of life…

Perhaps you might consider implementing the concept of a sabbatical, or a short retreat, or a routine vacation, where you actually shut off your phone and laptop and completely disconnect, changing the rhythm of your life to reset and refuel. Maybe some will take a pause every few years and simply leave the office for 3-4 weeks to do something else for a spell. Others might organize a 4-5 day annual retreat/reset at a spa or a cabin, where they read, think, meditate and feed their souls. And for many, there might be more pre-planned long weekends.

Whatever it looks like, I hope that this slower pace and time to reflect is the thing that sticks with our society long after we’ve come out of quarantine and gotten back to business as usual.

In order to make this a reality, it’ll take some planning.

Most Americans can’t just walk away from their jobs for 3-4 weeks, because even for families earning $150,000 per year or more, one in four are living paycheck-to-paycheck, while a third of those earning $50,000 to $100,000 depend on their next check to keep their heads above water(1). In fact, according to a Survey of Household Economics and Decision Making, 40% of American’s would struggle to come up with even $400 to pay for an unexpected bill(2). Therefore, people will need to plan for sabbaticals, retreats and vacations, setting aside time and money to fund them in advance.

I hope that this global “timeout” we’ve all been forced to take will help people to reprioritize where and how they spend their time and money, and when and how they make time to slow down and reset. I guess time will tell.

For more consideration on alternative ways of living/working, check out Thinking Differently About Retirement.




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Published for the blog on May 4, 2020 by Searcy Financial Services, your Overland Park, Kansas Fee-Only Financial Planner and Investment Manager.