A friend of mine runs her own business in the wellness space. She spends a lot of time traveling to speaking engagements and conferences.
We call her the “wellness rockstar” because it’s almost like she’s in a touring rock band.
She's away so much, hopping from city to city to city.
One day she called me out of the blue and announced, “Hey, I’m going to be in your neck of the woods tomorrow, want to have dinner?”
So, there we sat at my favorite restaurant on a beautiful evening, catching up.
It was such a nice surprise to see her, I said, but I wondered… How did this happen?
As far as I knew, she had no plans to be in my area.
“I hatched this plan after I took a bonus day last week,” she said, grinning.
Before she could continue, I had to interrupt... “Wait, hang on, WHAT IS A BONUS DAY?!?!”
My friend explained how the previous week, she’d been on the west coast, about to take a red-eye home.
Importantly (and I’ll come back to this) she wasn’t feeling super beaten down or depleted.
In fact, she’d just had a great run of events and felt invigorated and inspired.
But she realized she felt kind of glum about the prospect of flying all the way home to Florida—where she’s based—then back out west a week later.
It suddenly felt wrong. So, she took a bonus day.
She booked herself into a little hotel in a part of town she’d never been in.
She hung out. She explored. She took herself to a nice lunch.
And then, 24 hours after what she calls “playing hooky” she realized she could rent a car, drive out to see me, have dinner, stay over, and then pick up where she left off on her schedule, without missing a beat.
So that’s exactly what she did! “Bonus days are my secret weapon,” she said.
When she starts to feel like something is off—before it escalates to a point of actual anxiety—she takes a bonus day. This way, she can head the stress off at the pass.
Even if you aren’t a glamorous wellness guru gallivanting around the country, this notion of the bonus day can be transformative.
We are accustomed to taking days off from a place of depletion, but not from a place of surplus.
If we changed that thinking, how would it open new possibilities in our lives?
I wanted to find out. So, I took my first bonus day last week. It was fascinating.
I wound up crossing a few things off my to-do list, but not because they were items on a schedule.
It was more like in turning off any expectations at all about what that day would hold, I was able to move from a place of intuition about what I really wanted to do with those 24 hours.
Which, it turns out, included taking a nap, watching an intellectually challenging movie I’d long wanted to see, and vacuuming out the lint screen in my dryer. Bliss!
If this idea strikes you as interesting, try it out!
And remember, a bonus day is not a sick day. It’s not a mental health day. It’s not about something being wrong.
It’s simply about building into life 24 hours of explicitly unscheduled time and seeing what pops up.
Are you inspired to try this? If so, what would you do with your bonus day?
Elizabeth is a journalist who has been writing about health, beauty and wellness for over 20 years. She lives in Northern New Mexico with her two dogs and several hundred trees, shrubs, bushes and succulents.
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