How to keep your peace, even when you’re not on vacation

Here are some strageties for staying relaxed when you’re on the hamster wheel that is modern life.

I’m just returning from a lovely European vacation — lots of sun, new experiences, awesome landscapes, wonderful food and exposure to different cultures.

It takes some time to decompress from work and my day-to-day family life, but after a week or so, most of those cobwebs have cleared away. What’s left is a sense of peace and tranquility. It’s not hard to relax after a couple of weeks away from the daily treadmill. After all, the biggest decisions that need to be made on vacation are what to eat and where to go. No wonder I feel so good!

Fortunately, Diane and I get along very well on vacation, too. We have the usual places where we bump into each other. But they aren’t much different than the edges we have when we’re home. On vacation, we fall into a comfortable pace. I become more agreeable and she becomes less concerned about seeing all of the sights.

After the 10-hour flight from Paris to Seattle — on none other than one of our homegrown Boeing 777’s — the plane descends below the clouds, and our own beautiful landscape comes into view. In my humble opinion, we live in one of the most gorgeous spots in the world. Our majestic evergreens salute the water and the mountains. And off in the distance, holding court over this magnificent countryside, stands the majestic Mount Rainier. It’s no wonder that visitors from all over the world come to visit.

As we transition into summer, many of us will be taking vacations — even if it’s just to see the mountains or the islands of the Pacific Northwest. We will have an opportunity to reconnect with family, friends, nature and, hopefully, ourselves. The longer days of summer create an opportunity for us to refresh and repair.

But, for me, the most important question is not how to relax when we are away from our responsibilities, but how do we keep our peace when we get back onto the hamster wheel of modern life?

Find a weekly oasis. Sometime during the week, find an hour for yourself to simply be. Take a walk, sit in your back yard, read a book or magazine, listen to music or find a peaceful spot. Don’t do — just be. Mostly every week, on Saturday, I go by myself to my favorite Chinese restaurant and have noodle soup. It’s a comfort meal for me, but it’s also an opportunity to take a mini vacation from my home and work life.

Take a moment of pause every day. I have been a longtime meditator, so most every morning, before anyone is up, I meditate and then perform Tai Chi, which I have been studying for some years. The four to five hours a week that I meditate equals about 200 hours per year, or the equivalent of five weeks of vacation. I need it! For others, prayer, attending religious services or simply taking some quiet time may fill this need.

Turn off your smartphone, computer or tablet. Take some time every day to turn down your connection to social media, texts or email. Take a mini vacation on a daily basis from the world of media.

Spend some time with your significant others. Get a babysitter and go on a date with your honey. Spend some time with a friend or family member. Keep it simple. But make it a regular part of your life.

Spend some time in nature. While I love to visit cities, it’s important to take time to smell the roses, literally. A walk in the woods restores us to a greater state of balance.

It’s all about keeping our peace.

Paul Schoenfeld is director of The Everett Clinic’s Center for Behavioral Health. His Family Talk Blog can be found at

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