Never feel guilty for having a break - the importance of going on holidays and truly switching off
If you ever panicked and overworked on the days leading to your holiday, you are not alone. Sometimes it feels like you will be leaving for months, years, and nobody else will be able to cope without you or nothing will be done in your absence. Worse still, you might feel they will cope too well and you might be replaced. All in the space of one single week.
There is a huge anxiety of leaving everything done before going away (as if there was ever 'an end' to work). The days before a holiday can start feeling like a nightmare: enormous 'to do lists', extra long hours in the office, dozens of phone calls and last minute meetings, trying to finish things that have been hanging for months.
The stress of those days can be so high that you start wondering if it would be better to cancel your holiday. 'Oh, if it wasn't for my wife's pressure', or 'If I hadn't already paid for it' or 'My friends would kill me if I cancelled now'. And then, grudgingly, you finally pack your luggage and go away.
But can you really switch off?
Are you old enough to remember those days when we didn't have mobile phones? We would travel to the other side of the world and our only means of communication was a brief weekly call from a public phone box. No emails, texts, internet. I know, it's unthinkable now. And some of you might not have experienced that at all. There is a whole generation of workers who have been connected full-time, 24/7, with no experience of the freedom and liberation of not being contactable.
Yes, I do believe there's no freedom when you feel you need to be reached at all times. Nowadays, if we don't reply to a text, email or call within minutes, there are questions, complaints or even losses in business. And this is a sad reality. A new kind of slavery and imprisonment.
How many times have you witnessed phone calls by the pool, on the beach, restaurants, or even on ski slopes? Some people are unable to switch off, as if one week would threaten their job and stability. As if their co-workers would realise that they are replaceable. And that they wouldn't have a job on their return.
I'm sure you might have - or think you have - many reasons to stay connected and work during your holiday. However, my intention here is to remind you and discuss the importance of having a real break. And what resting can do for you, your life and even your work.
Why having a break is so important for your life:
- Your mind needs as much rest and nutrition as your body does.
When you switch off and leave your work behind, you give an opportunity for your mind to clear of all the anxieties, worries and concerns that you experience every day. Your mind will have a chance to slow down and open up to other thoughts and experiences.
- You'll remember how it feels to have fun again.
It's easy to forget to have fun when you are engrossed in deadlines, wins, troubles, demands and schedules. But then, suddenly, you'll remember that there's more to life. You'll remember how good it feels to do things that make you happy, that bring you joy. How great it is to have fun.
- Resetting your mood.
Sometimes you feel so anxious and stressed, that it becomes part of your life and who you are. But trust me: it's not! You are more than all that stress, you are more than those routines and troubles at work. There are all sorts of feelings and emotions in you. A break will give an opportunity for other experiences, other states of mind and other moods. You might see life in a different light and perspective.
- You'll be able to see and experience new things.
Here and now. By switching off and having less screen time, your eyes and your mind will be able to notice new things. You'll be open to new experiences and new possibilities, instead of doing everything in same old ways. Also, you will feel more present and in the moment. Not somewhere else, thinking of things you left at work or what you 'should be doing'. When on holiday, your main aim should be rest and fun. Try new things, give yourself the gift of new experiences.
- Less screen time = more interaction with the loved ones.
Holiday is a great opportunity to reconnect with the people who really matter to you, either family or friends. It's a moment to spend quality time together, meaningfully. Try to turn your mobile off, have a break from social media and truly enjoy the old fashioned way of talking to others: face to face, eye contact, smiles. Try to meet new people, have longer and deeper conversations, play games, do things together. Reconnect, bond and rediscover each other.
- You'll feel stronger and re-energised for work.
Not only physically and mentally but, after a proper break, you might have a different attitude and approach towards your tasks. What seemed huge and unachievable before, might feel a little less frightening and more possible to you.
- You'll set an example to others around you.
Why not be the one who truly switches off and teaches others to do the same? Someone has to start it, after all. You could be the one breaking the culture of overwork and 'full-time reachability'. You can be the one showing that breaks can be done - and fully enjoyed - and still have your job on your return, with productivity and success.
- You'll be a happier person.
Experiencing moments of happiness, joy and lightness will remind you what life is about. That there are many more things to think about than job and preoccupations. That there are loved ones, other experiences and even happiness to be had. By 'happiness' I mean a sense of general well-being, the realisation that you are a 'whole person', open to a variety of feelings and emotions, more than anxiety and stresses.
- Restoring balance in life.
In general, most people don't have a balance between work and rest. That's why the holidays should feel like a 'sacred time' when work isn't allowed. One week off, two weeks off, will bring a sense of balance back to your routine. Sometimes, afterwards, you might even be able to bring back some sense of equilibrium with you.
- Bringing more fun to your daily life.
Why not bring some kind of fun as a 'souvenir' with you? That break might awaken a desire for more fun, rest and lightness in your routine. Not only a few times a year but anytime. You might start exercising more, or resume a hobby, or going out more. Your holiday could remind you how much you like physical activities, or reading books, or listening to music. It doesn't need to be something huge or 'life changing', but things that bring you joy. Perhaps eating better, sleeping more or simply looking after yourself.
Back to the work routine with a new energy
Even with all the initial resistance against breaking the routine and leaving your commitments behind, a good break will hopefully restore your energies and give you a new boost of life. You'll be able to see things with a clearer mind and new perspectives. We all need fuel to function, both mentally and physically. If we don't stop, we won't be able to keep going.
And, more important than keep going, is living well, with quality, balance and well-being. Value rest as much as you value work, value slowing down as much as you value results. Sometimes staying still is worth much more than any sprinting. Give your mind and body a good break. And enjoy it.
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About Adriana Gordon
Adriana is an experienced psychosynthesis counsellor offering individual sessions to adults in Central London: Covent Garden and Oxford Circus.
Adriana is also a group facilitator in systemic/family constellations, offering workshops, talks and consultancy.
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