Every person needs to take one day away. A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future. Jobs, family, employers, and friends can exist one day without any one of us, and if our egos permit us to confess, they could exist eternally in our absence. Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.
Maya Angelou, Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now
I am writing to you this #WakeUpWednesday from my first non-working vacation in a while, and it has been fantastic. Seriously, it’s just what the doctor ordered. I feel rested, rejuvenated, and recharged. And, in the past few days, I’ve realized what damage I’ve done to myself both mentally and physically by refusing to take a few days to disconnect from the office.
I’ve always been a hard worker, to a fault. Even before having children and beginning my career, I always made sure to be connected to my office on my vacations. I landed my first job out of college before I graduated, and I worked straight through law school, taking the bar exam, and two pregnancies. Yes, there have been vacations, but I spent the majority of my time on these vacations connected to my laptop or e-mail. I would return to work after my vacations feeling more stressed than I did before I left. Eventually, I gave up on taking time off altogether.
For a long time, I assumed that I was the only person out there with this issue; however, I’ve come to find that my story is just one of many. Accordingly to a recent study by the U.S. Travel Association, nearly 4 out of 10 Americans don’t plan to take all of their vacation days each year. Many don’t take vacation because they fear the work that will await them when they return to the office and don’t trust others to take care of their work while they’re away. They, like me, feel as though there’s no point to taking a break.
I am here to tell you, though, that there is a point to taking a break. Taking vacations leads to better physical health, more productivity at the office, closer family relationships, a lower change of burn out, and improved mental health. Feelings of calm arise during this time and relieve the stress you feel at the office, allowing your body and mind to heal in ways that it couldn’t if it were still under the pressures of a work day.
That being said, I still have had moments on this vacation where I start to panic about the work I will be returning to and that I didn’t accomplish enough before I left the office. I’m tempted to pick up my laptop and work remotely for a full day. I’ve come to realize that taking a meaningful vacation is an art for someone like me and takes practice to make perfect. In the spirit of being a better “vacationer,” I am going to do the following:
- Leave the WiFi/Phone/Computer Behind: I’ve made the decision to take this vacation in order to relax and recharge, so I’m not going to let work creep into my time away. I have dedicated times that I’m checking my e-mails during the day and responding to my colleagues only when necessary. I’ve also resolved to work only if something urgent pops up. If it isn’t urgent, it can wait until my “buffer day,” which I’ll get to in a bit. Although this has resulted in a little bit of stress for me, I’ve felt much more relaxed on this vacation than I have in the past. “Unplugging,” I’ve decided, is definitely a skill worth mastering.
- Delegate Responsibilities that Don’t Need to be Handled Immediately: Before leaving the office, I spoke with a colleague about the fact that I was taking a family vacation. He knew that for the next week that I would contact him when necessary about handling certain of my responsibilities while I was out. It has made me feel better to have a little bit of an “action plan” and know that not all of my projects would be dropped while away. I’d definitely recommend this to any other type-A employees out there struggling to take a bit of a break.
- I’ve Built In a Buffer Day: About 90% of my stress comes from the fact that I know I’ll be returning to a full inbox and work assignments that haven’t been tended to in a week. My first days back to the office are almost always a “catch up” day. So, I’ve given myself a buffer between returning home from my vacation and heading back into the office. It’s going to give me a day to hide out in my home office and deal with all I’ve missed without being interrupted. I’ve actually been able to relax more during my week off knowing that certain things will be handled on Sunday before I begin the upcoming week.
So, plan your vacations. Schedule time to unplug. Spend time reconnecting with people and things that you love. And, if it’s too overwhelming to do on your own and you need some guidance, reach out. Mommy, ESQ. is always here to help.
What are you willing to commit to in order to unplug? Do you have an upcoming vacation planned? What sorts of adventures do you want to take?
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