When I was a kid, Labor Day meant the end of the summer. My father was a foreman in a ball-bearing factory. He was never home on a Monday, except for this one. We’d visit our grandparents, have a family picnic and then get home early to lay out our first-day-of-school outfits. The meaning of Labor Day was lost on me.
When I became a working adult, Labor Day simply meant a much-needed day off. Back then you had to work a full year before you earned any vacation days. Yet, Labor Day was founded more than 120 years ago with a specific purpose. According to the Department of Labor, the holiday on the first Monday of September was “a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well-being of our country.”
Unfortunately, Labor Day has transformed into just another shopping holiday. How could something that was so hard-fought turn into something so meaningless? What if this Labor Day you truly unplugged?
Why We Don’t Unplug and Why We Need To
For many workers around the globe, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. has been replaced with 24/7. From coaching hundreds of business leaders, my co-author, Senia Maymin, Ph.D., and I have found four common reasons why people don’t unplug, even when they have a day off:
- Feeling anxious about stepping away from work
- Believing working more will make them more productive
- Unrealistic workplace expectations
- Striving to be a perfectionist
But, like a muscle, our brains need rest to perform optimally.
Don’t Recuperate—Instead Rejuvenate and Reprioritize
My coaching clients often tell me that when they do take a day off they need to recuperate, as though work is like an illness or surgery. When we lose interest in people and the things that once brought us joy and happiness, it is our wake-up call that we need to reprioritize, not recuperate.
This Labor Day, I challenge you to stay out of the stores and totally unplug. Take a mental health day to honor the American worker instead and reflect upon what’s important to you. What does Labor Day mean to you and how will you spend it?
Five Simple Ways to Unplug
Cultivate one or more of these healthy mobile phone habits and notice what happens to your overall happiness:
- Put away your phone for at least one hour every day.
- Put your phone on sleep mode to trick yourself into thinking your phone is dead.
- Turn off all social media, text and email alerts.
- Never, ever put your phone on a table or desktop when having a conversation.
- Never open an email on your phone (even though you may be tempted to do so) if you know you can’t possibly respond to it in the moment. Curiosity killed the cat.