Finding downtime can be hard as a recent immigrant but it can also help you thrive in your new country

For recent immigrants to Canada, who studies show, tend to work longer and more hours than Canadian-born workers, downtime is beneficial in helping improve productivity and mental and physical health.

A Newcomer's Journey,Settlement and Life in Canada

June 8, 2022

Estimated reading time: 3.5 minutes

In summary:

  • Downtime is different than leisure time. It is time focused on helping your brain rest and recharge. Downtime can take different forms.
  • Newcomers often struggle to prioritize downtime because they are focused on establishing their lives in their new country.
  • It’s important to plan your downtime to ensure you make it happen. It can start with a short nap, a walk or guided meditation.

Humans perform better when they are rested. A number of scientific studies show even small breaks from work and technology help the human brain complete tasks more rapidly and with greater success.

For recent immigrants to Canada, who studies show, tend to work longer and more hours than Canadian-born workers, downtime is beneficial in helping improve productivity and mental and physical health.

Immigrants and refugees experience unique mental health challenges in Canada. We share some helpful tips, resources and mental health supports on our blog. Read them here.

Downtime is not the same thing as “leisure time”. Downtime refers to any activity that doesn’t require your brain to be processing ideas or information. Leisure time spent socializing with friends or family or surfing social media on your smartphone can be fun, but it doesn’t help your brain to regenerate. Think of downtime as disconnecting or unplugging, briefly, from your busy life.

Tim Haley

Tim Haley, a workshop facilitator at the Centre for Newcomers in Calgary, has seen newcomer clients fall into some common traps that limit their downtime. They work several jobs simultaneously or work a full-time job and take on full-time studies without any consideration for rest or self-care. Many feel forced into these choices due to  financial pressures or a desire to establish their lives in Canada as quickly as possible. While these decisions are understandable, sacrificing downtime may ultimately limit your ability to reach your Canadian life and career goals by negatively affecting your brain’s ability to perform.

Haley offers the following downtime tips for newcomers to help them rest, recharge and perform at their best as they start their lives in Canada.

Develop a downtime plan

When is your downtime going to take place? Where will you do it? Will it take the form of a nap, nature walk or some other activity to help your brain recharge? Commit to your downtime by putting it into your calendar. It can start with small increments of time and increase as your downtime habits improve. Experiment with a range of downtime activities to find out what works best for you. This can start with as little as 10 minutes of downtime, daily.

Explore your neighbourhood

Exercise is a great way to deal with stress and stay healthy. Take time to go for a walk in the area where you live or work. This will give you time to rest and reflect. Find a park where you can be alone, relax by yourself or enjoy some fresh air. Going for daily walks costs nothing and can contribute significantly to your overall wellness.

Embrace local arts and culture

On your walks, you might pass a local museum or art gallery. Strolling through a museum or attending local arts and cultural events can be a great way to spend your downtime and learn about your new community or country. You can also improve your English or even grow your network. Many community events, farmers’ markets and cultural activities come at no cost. Ask neighbours, inquire with your child’s school community or colleagues about options or where to look online for local events.

Find a relaxing volunteer opportunity

Does a local foodbank need help sorting and shelving its stock? Does a community garden need an extra pair of hands? Find a volunteer activity to become involved with. It doesn’t need to be a daily commitment but it may be able to help you achieve your goal of more downtime while also contributing positively to your community. The key is for the volunteer activity not to add stress or further information overload to your life. This kind of downtime can help you integrate yourself, more quickly, within your community, enhance your network and improve your English skills. Plus, employers look favourably on candidates who volunteer.

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Find links to local and provincial arts, culture and event guides across Canada:

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