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Life can get pretty stressful. The older you get and the more responsibilities you take on, the harder the strain– and mental stress does have physical ramifications, from increasing your likelihood of injury from tension and being mentally distracted, to suppressing the immune system and making you more vulnerable to diseases. 

Psychologists emphasize the importance of play as a way to relieve physical stress and clear the mind. You’ve heard the phrase, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy?” Apparently it also makes Jack sick, depressed and less productive.

In other words: play is important. You should take it seriously.

Set aside time.
Play is so important you should schedule time each week (if not each day) to do, well, nothing important. Play a game. Read a book. Hang out with friends and laugh. Go for a hike or a bike ride. Whatever you do for no other reason than it brings you joy, that is what you should make time to do. 

Set aside a space.
Having a dedicated game room would be awesome, but that’s not always possible. But, it is possible to say “for the next 30 minutes, this corner of the kitchen table and this phone are my own personal movie theater.” If you don’t live alone, set some ground rules with your family or roommates. “You guys are awesome, but work has been rough. I need 30 minutes to myself. Can you give me that?”

Set aside the world.
You don’t have to completely shut yourself off from other people. But you should promise yourself that, in this space for this specific period of time, you aren’t going to let the pressures and responsibilities that are causing you stress into the world of your play. 

Get 100% focused on something you enjoy. 
Don’t feel guilty about that. You aren’t ignoring the outside world. You are recharging yourself so that you are better able to give those things the focus and attention they deserve (or at least demand). 

It may sound counterintuitive, but in order to give your job and your family and your friends and your problems the best version of you that you can, you need time where you aren’t thinking about those things at all.