If you're like, well, everyone else in the world, you probably don't take enough vacation time (or, in other words, just some time to relax and decompress) and if you do, you probably spend a disproportionate amount of time thinking or worrying about your "real life" responsibilities. Though in these moments you likely revert to just being frustrated with yourself, wondering why you can't just enjoy what's in front of you, consider that you've more or less been conditioned to be enslaved to your job and that worrying is a natural byproduct of living in a culture wherein your entire worth is wrapped up in how well you perform each day. (Wild when you really think about it, no?)
The point is that we do a great job of teaching people how to be productive, how to groom themselves for employment, how to be more successful, how to do better, and how to reach higher, but never how to just enjoy what they already have, or take a break, or be patient, or consider that your "goals" are really supplements for basic self-esteem (and that if you felt OK about yourself, you'd strive for entirely different things).
Now, don't get me wrong — it's nobody else's responsibility to teach us this. So we have to teach ourselves. At the end of the day, you are the only person who controls your mind. You are the only person who can reverse years of what you were taught. No, it's not easy, but it's crucial if you want to live a relatively sane life at the end of the day. So here are a few little steps to get you started, a few ways to make the most of your vacation time (and ensure you take it when you have it).
Don't Work Until The Last Minute
It's going to be a lot harder to transition into "relaxation mode" if your momentum is speeding 100 miles per minute from a super fast-paced end-of-workweek. Sure, it's not always possible to just, uh, do nothing leading up to your vaca days, but if you can, try to fly out on a Sunday, or give yourself a little time to relax and organize before you take off.
Have A Plan, Have A Budget
Eliminate the two most stressful (and, uh, work-rooted) causes of stress on vacation: senseless downtime (we don't like doing "nothing" when we could so evidently be working!) and/or finances (inextricably tied to work).
Make Sure You're Taking Enough Time Off
Most people need at least two weeks of vacation to completely decompress. If that's entirely unrealistic for you, at least try one full week. A long weekend is probably not enough.
Set Aside A Specific Time To Answer Any Pressing Work Emails
Going on vacation doesn't have to mean you go entirely off the grid... but don't be checking your email on the beach just because you have so much anxiety about it. Instead, set aside a time each day that you spend 10 minutes catching up and reviewing anything important. It will make you feel so much better, and keep you connected in a healthy way.
Make Sure You Tell Everyone Who Could Need You That You Won't Be Available
And send reminders, too.
Prepare For A Little Motivation Lag When You Get Back
Unless you are actually a robot, there's little chance you'll be able to transition seamlessly from vacation-bliss to workweek-grind without even a little bit of lag, so be aware of this, and give yourself the time you need to readjust.
Tie Up Loose Ends Before You Leave
Start early and make sure you've paid the bills, cleaned the house, did the laundry, and so on. It will be easier to get out the door, and easier to readjust when you come back.
Do Things That Engage Your Mind And Body
Yeah, sitting on the beach doing ~nothing~ is fun and definitely has its place, but if that's all you're doing for two weeks straight, you're likely going to just get sick of yourself and revert to worrying to basically just give yourself something to do. Don't confuse "inaction" with "relaxation." They are not the same thing.
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