What Do You Do When You Really Need a Break?

Real Simple readers share how they like to take a time-out.

In a Tub

I send my husband out to play with the boys, brew myself a pot of tea, assemble a small plate of goodies, collect a few magazines (including yours), and head to the tub. I settle in until the water's cold, or until my husband comes home―whichever is first.
Noelle Allen
Guelph, Ontario

I sit in a steamy tub laced with fresh sprigs of rosemary from the garden.
Shari Whittier
Tallahassee, FL

On the Water

I get up early and go to the beach. No one else is there except one or two fishermen. Listening to the waves washes the stresses of the workweek away. I usually leave before lunch, before the crowds begin to show up.
Deborah J. Clark
Stratford, CT

I go sailing with my brother. Most of the time I like to sail the boat, but there are other times when I let someone else take over so I can simply hang my legs over the edge and watch the water go by.
Charlie Kaiman
Alexandria, VA

With Friends

I enjoy inviting some friends over―the ones you can have fun cooking with―and make a very casual, very simple, but incredibly good dinner. Everyone brings their dogs and children, and no one cares what chaos ensues or how anything turns out. We just enjoy spending time with each other, having a great meal, and catching up.
Ann Dupree
Manchester, VT

I go visit friends who have a house full of children. It is so noisy there and so much is happening at once that I cannot continue thinking about my problems. I gather the kids together and take them for a walk at sunset. While they're playing in the park, I breathe the clean air.
Sharon Owens
Lanai City, HI

In the Groove

Soft, slow, fast, jazzy, country, classical―I can lose myself in all music. Sometimes unwinding means mellowing out, other times it means twisting, jumping, and jiving. Music brings back memories and helps create new ones. 
Carole Tedesko Nemec
Waller, TX

On a Swing

Sitting on my swing, which is under a large tree, I can gaze at the fish and water lilies in my pond, and watch the dragonflies and butterflies zipping from flower to flower on the water hyacinths. It is so peaceful, quiet, and relaxing. 
Patricia Ellis
Goose Creek, SC

In the Garden

Weeding the garden is quiet, earthy, and constructive. It takes my mind off other matters. Who says unwinding has to be nonconstructive? 
Joan Plante 
Westborough, MA

I love to throw on some old clothes, grab some shears and twine, and putter around in my kitchen garden. Being amongst all that greenery helps me forget about the world outside my little picket fence.
Andrea Fernandez
Richmond, VA

In the Yard

My favorite place is outdoors. I like to listen to the birds in the woods or go for a walk. I let the dogs run and find myself giggling at them trying to catch chipmunks. Our two-year-old daughter and her older brothers find the most interesting things to play with, and as long as they don't put them in their pockets for me to find on laundry day, it's wonderful.
Kim Williams
Staunton, IL

My two daughters are 18 months apart, and a great break for me has been to go out and mow the lawn when my husband gets home from work. My neighbors think I'm strange, but it's a good way to drown out demands, yet be productive and get a bit of exercise.
Karen Maher
Collegeville, PA

On the Road

I ride my motorcycle to unwind. The wind in my face relaxes me. I usually don't have a particular destination in mind, but go wherever I please and stop whenever I choose.
Irene Wennersten
Winthrop Harbor, IL

We clip articles on any place or event that's close enough to go to for a day or weekend. When the urge strikes, we grab the clips and jump in the car. We have spent an afternoon by a waterfall eating apples and cheese, and have been to the best pizza restaurant in the state, and to an exhibition of Egyptian mummies. Each adventure has been a wonderful surprise and takes us a million mental miles from the house and yardwork, jobs, and problems. We now have friends who ask to borrow the clips for the weekend!
Nancy Mehaffey
Clemmons, NC

In the Stacks

I go to a bookstore, grab some tea, and hang out in the stacks for a couple of hours. Being around all of those books immediately relaxes me and puts me in a good mood. The books surrounding me hold such amazing possibilities.
Marlie McDonnell 
Madison, WI

A couple of years ago I bought a porch swing and hung it in the garden. In the spring I watch new leaves bud on the trees. In the summer I go out early and let the sun drench my face. In the fall I cuddle in a blanket as birds fly south.
Shirley Dawson
West Jordan, UT

 

In Thought

Working on jigsaw puzzles is a wonderful way to relax and tune out the rest of the world. I find they also help me to be more patient with myself―and with the rest of the world. 
Kelly Taylor
Raleigh, NC

I grab my journal, go to the $5 movie theater, buy a tub of popcorn, and start writing. It doesn't matter if the movie is awful―what matters is the cool, dark room, having time to myself, and the glorious calm that settles over me and lasts the rest of the day.
Megan O’Connell Gray
Arlington, MA

In the midst of a very wound-up family, my favorite way of unwinding is with a simple, black notebook and a pen to record my thoughts, hopes, prayers, dreams, and ideas. My notebooks have become my best friends, where I can express myself as freely as I please and not feel ashamed.
Shannon Stone
Worcester, MA

With Art

I go to an art museum. I walk up the marble steps, enter its cold, quiet solace, and sit in a room of masterpieces and contemplate the art. Thoughts of work and relationships leave my mind when I am in the sanctuary of the museum. Being by myself rewards me with tension-free time to unwind from my day. 
Jane Terzibashian 
Ann Arbor, MI

Bubble baths are a little slice of heaven. You can close the door, put on your favorite CD, and shut the entire world out for a few hours. No phone calls, no barking dogs, no laundry―just me and the bubbles.
Laura Colby-Halsey
Dayton, OH

My favorite way to unwind is to paint. In fact, I found this so relaxing that I quit my career to paint full-time. When I paint, I forget about everything else in the world.
Sarah B. Skidmore
Halifax, Nova Scotia

On the Range

I go with a close friend to a driving range and hit a basket of golf balls. We claim we are improving our aim, but we're really unwinding. 
A.K. Smith
Toronto

At Home

I am a working mother with two children under the age of two, and my husband is a full-time father. We unwind by having everyone put on their pajamas and pile onto our bed to cuddle and talk. Nothing relaxes me more.
Kim Tarnopol
Royal Oak, MI

Every night about an hour before bed, my husband and I have a cup of tea together. This is the one hour a day that we devote completely to each other, basking in each other's company, and enjoying something so simple in taste and preparation as a cup of tea. Rehashing the day is not allowed. We're just allowed to enjoy each other.
Hyon-Hee Georg
Foster City, CA

At Work?!?

I hang out at work―really! I'm a massage therapist at Ten Thousand Waves Japanese Spa in Santa Fe, and when I need to unwind I get a massage, then head to my own wooden tub nestled in the mountainside―just me, the wind, and the water, right here in the high desert of New Mexico.
Jennifer Read
Santa Fe, NM 


At a Standstill
Sometimes, not doing anything is the best way to unwind. I love to sit still in the afternoon and watch people walk and drive by.
Julia Dixon
San Diego, CA

With a PetNothing can clear my troubles away faster than spending a few minutes on the floor with my dog, Lady. She always makes me laugh, and her unquestioning trust and love bring me back to a time when my own life was as easy as wake-play-eat-sleep.
Mari Farthing
Kaiserslautern, Germany

I saddle up my horse and head to the riding stables. The trails wind around the Kentucky River and through beautiful country. I think my horse enjoys the rides as much as I do. My dogs love to go with me and occasionally stir a critter out of the brush.
Christy Hager
Nicholasville, KY

My cat and I spend time on the patio in the evenings. I read a book while my cat watches the birds and roams through the tall plants. We are rewarded when the small songbirds start to gather at the bird feeders.
Ruth Pulker
Walled Lake, MI
 

On the Trail

I pack a light lunch and hike through the redwoods with my husband and friends.
Tamara Hinds
Redwood City, CA

I go for a walk. I don't wear headphones, and I don't walk with anyone―except, on occasion, my dog (who doesn't demand conversation). I take in the fresh air, watch for wildlife―a deer, a rabbit, an occasional fox―and note the signs of the changing seasons. By the time I return home, my worries and weariness have been replaced by peaceful reflections and a quiet energy.
Marcia R. Gilmer
Des Moines, IA