This is my first day back after a two week break. Yeah yeah, I know. Don’t rub it in.
I didn’t do any writing whilst on break, so thought it sensible to get back into the work groove with a short blog post.
In it I reflect on a few simple wellbeing lessons I learned (or maybe relearned) this time around about how to take full advantage of some time off. Maybe keep these in mind as you head towards the mid-year break.
Get off the email/ social media treadmill
On previous breaks, I have usually endeavoured to keep up with my email and social media ‘duties’. This time around, I let both slide (apologies to anyone that sent me an important email).
What it showed me was just how much time and mental energy I exert on keeping those communication channels active, and in turn how freeing it was to leave them alone for a couple of weeks.
Yes, I now have a mountain load of correspondence to catch up on, but that is ok. The psychological benefit of not having to track them whilst on break was very freeing. It prevented my brain from continuously trying to click back into work mode (which it is prone to do).
I’m using the discovery of how much pressure email/social media exerts on my mental energy levels as an incentive to better compartmentalise email/social media during a typical workday. As a starting point, I will see if I can time-block a segment of the day (e.g. 3.30pm to 5.00pm) as specifically for ‘communications’ and try to limit attending to those channels at other times. This is instead of trying to monitor those channels in an ongoing way throughout the day.
Thinking about your own email/social media load, do you think you’d be able to take an e-holiday?
Mix up your habits and routines
Anyone who knows me, knows that I consider habits and routines to be a central component of health and wellbeing. I encourage people to develop efficient and wellbeing-promoting routines so that they can survive and thrive during the busy periods of the year.
Whilst on holiday however, I took a more liberal approach to habits and routines and purposefully mixed them up and experimented with different ways of spending the day. This was all the more important because I didn’t go away during my break. Because I was at home, there was always the risk of simply falling into the same basic routines as if I was at work.
I kept some habits in place, but let others slide. I kept yoga but took a break from meditation. I kept weight training but took a break from writing.
I was able to do this because of an inner confidence I had that when I went back to work, I could reinstate any useful habits/routines without too much bother. I’d be able to pick back up those that I put aside. It is ok to take a holiday from some habits. Its a good way to remind yourself that you are on holiday.
Instead I enjoyed letting go of my usual routines and approaching each day like a unique experiment. Rather than follow the same basic 9-5 routine, I mixed things up. I changed my wake and bed times. I changed meal times and meal content. I did activities at different times of the day.
Probably most importantly, I dropped the pace of the average day. I literally moved slower than normal. If I caught myself ‘rushing’ with no real need, I’d simply take a breath and slow it down. I spent a great morning just aimlessly wandering around a Bunnings store.
Remind yourself that you deserve a break
I don’t know about you, but for me, sometimes taking time off and indulging myself leads to feelings of guilt, like I don’t deserve to rest and recuperate and should always be ‘doing’ something.
I struggled less with that this time. Firstly, I’d worked hard in the lead-up to my break and as such was able to more easily convince myself of my deservingness of a break. So maybe try to organise breaks following periods of intense work.
The second thing that helped was the knowledge I had that when I returned to work I intended to push hard for the second half of the year to finish an ambitious project (more on that later). So maybe set some ambitious goals for yourself after the break, to ensure your willingness to rest and recharge.
It is important to give yourself permission to enjoy a period of self-indulgence and fun. A strong work ethic is fantastic, but if you decide to take a break, it’s important to embrace that opportunity to recharge fully.
As you head out of the exam/end of semester period and into the holiday break, remember all the work you’ve put in this year, and give yourself permission, even if just for a day, to have some down-time.
Do something creative but no too much
A couple of years back I rediscovered doing art, after a long hiatus from it. I had forgotten how important it was to my mental health to have artistic/creative outlets.
I made sure during my break to include creative/ artistic activities. I did some art. I modified the garden. I built some stuff. Nothing amazing or groundbreaking, just working with my hands.
I didn’t go overboard. There is always a risk with someone like me who values achievement, to end up exhausting myself trying to ‘achieve’ lots on my holiday. I’ve seen friends set themselves exhausting schedules whilst on break and reaching the end of their break more tired than when they started.
To this end, I made sure to include both slothful and productive activities each day. I might spend the morning bingeing a TV show (helloooo Sons of Anarchy), but then would head outside in the afternoon to work in the garden or try to build something out of scrap timber I had lying around.
The goal is to satisfy one’s need for creative expression and have some relaxed fun along the way. Oh yeah, If you get the chance to try something different than your normal creative outlets, that is even better.
Thinking back to previous holiday periods, what are your holiday ‘guidelines’ that help you get the most out of taking some time off? Feel free to share below. Right now, I better go and attend to all those emails that have banked up 😊