A Few Thoughts On Taking Time Off

“Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, you ought to set up a life you don’t need to escape from.” – Seth Godin

Over the years, I noticed a few things when it came to taking some time off:

  • I often have to encounter something I can’t stop, change or affect in order to rest. For example, when I get sick, it’s about the only time I set aside time for myself –and more often than not, I have to talk myself out of powering through it and cross off one more thing on my To Do list, in fear that the world will collapse if I’m not there to handle it. Ever do laundry when you’re running a fever and your head is so clogged you can’t even breathe through your nose? I don’t recommend it.
  • I feel anxious and think that I may be missing out on something important. Cue repetitive checking for new email and updates. Cue refreshing every half-hour or so: “Just 10 more minutes…there might be an upda–oh, score!”
  • I feel like a slacker, and that I’m squandering time and opportunities — I mean, I can be making something great here! I could be doing something more important. You know, something!

Basically, when I try to relax, I fall apart. And I don’t think I’m the only one. Right?

Pressure can be deviously comfortable that way. When you’re used to living with it, you can feel quite out of sorts when it’s suddenly removed. Sometimes that dislocation manifests itself in the oddest ways. Like planning and saving and looking towards a vacation, and come the time to take it, you schedule in everything because dammit, you are going to enjoy this break even if it kills you. (Again, that can’t be just me.) So here’s the rest of what I learned when I tried really, really hard to relax and failed.

Ease into it.
Mini-breaks are standard in our daily working hours. You rest your eyes for a bit, you stretch, go to the bathroom…the rest that I’m talking about now goes deeper than that. Those breaks are necessary to attend to your physical needs while you’re at work, and give you the mental space to unwind from your regular entanglements.

Rest in this case is more of a shutting out and shielding in, so to speak, to recollect yourself. Recharge, recalibrate, reassess, meditate –however you wish to call it, what you do at these times is that you check in with your deepest self. And unless you’ve been doing it for a while, it’s hard to make time for that kind of deep activity when you still have to deal with your To-do’s piling up.

People aren’t meant to go-go-go all day, every day, to be on all our waking hours. And yet we try. We get apps, virtual assistants and the latest upgrades guaran-damn-teed to increase our efficiency–at the expense to taking time to ourselves just to be. And when you experience for yourself how much being always connected takes out of you while working and living on an endless treadmill, you have to think if it’s worth it and try to see if there might be a better way of living, not just doing.

So you try a few new things to see what happens. You test, filter, and select . While you readily acknowledge that there is a very real need for change, you also understand that an all-out, balls-out overhaul can do more harm than good, so you take small steps and keep going. Slow and steady keeps you stable.

Get used to taking breaks by actually taking them.
Accustom your system to the healthier, less-stressed life-style that many researchers, scientists and doctors label as ‘optimal’. When you take time off, you take off. Get away from your usual environment, out of the usual schedule, and situate yourself in such a way that you have uninterrupted time to refresh your perspective and just get to take in the world.

Take the time to live the life you worked so hard to have.
This takes it the concept of flow and best-workings (finding your best spot in work, rest and play) deeper, from physical and behavioral action to awareness. And it can be hard. Being busy gets us every time, and we forget things in the rush.

Conscious living means moving deeper — slower in a way. You step back –or perhaps a better way to describe it would be like taking a deep breath and step into yourself and then expanding outward — to look at life from a higher perspective.

In this state you can juggle the paradoxes of life with ease and clarity: personal and professional, public and private, what you want for yourself and what you want to give others, what you want to get out of life and what you want to leave behind….

People have their own concept of what the best life means, and when you get to this level of matured understanding, you can reconcile that all of us are going to die some time (“So what’s the point of working so hard?”) and that we better make our life matter to us (“That’s the point. Live like you mean it.”) Why work so hard you lose the point of what you’re working for?

Take some time to think about it. You’ll thank yourself later.

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