Impromptu Vacations

Take care of yourself when you need to, not just when you plan to. That’s what weekends and sick days are for. Treat them as a blessing and use them well.

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Triggering the End of Vacation

Vacations should only end after three things happen: 1) you feel rested, 2) you miss home, and 3) you actually want to get back to work. If those three things do not fall into place by the end of your sojourn, your vacation failed. That, or you 1) have health problems, 2) do not feel at home where you live or 3) hate the work you do. Vacations can help you distance yourself from your normal life enough to realize any one of these three issues and tackle problems accordingly.

Rest Your Mind

When you finally stop moving or take a break, your mind tends to press on and fill the work void with busy thoughts. Far too often, my vacations ripen with creative or intellectual juices. More momentum from busy days than anything else, I spend all of my free time theorizing, planning or creating the next big thing. Unfortunately, a busy mind is hardly restful. If you want a true break, you need to let go and stop thinking for a while. Zone out to some chill music. Go for a jog. Float down a river. Whatever helps your mind find a small measure of peace. With a completely rested mind, you will be surprised how many of your anxieties from before will disappear.

Vacations Take Courage

You know what’s terrifying? Abandoning work, teammates, income, bills, children, friends, pets, chores and other obligations for a week or more. Even more so terrifying to do all that and go to a place you’ve never been. Leaving town is easier for people with low-stakes employment, structured vacation time and a shorter list of things to abandon. It’s much more difficult for people entangled in their work or community. An executive responsible for hundreds of employees who depend on him or her may never feel comfortable leaving all that behind. It’s a scary thing. To take a vacation takes courage.

To take a true vacation takes even more courage. By ‘true vacation,’ I mean a designated period of time where you can completely let go. For people in control day-to-day, this can be as terrifying or more so than leaving everything behind. My father planned everything his entire life (he plans cities and suburban spaces for a living). Vacations were no different. When things didn’t go to plan, he’d stress out. Stress breaks the true vacation. As my parents upgraded to an empty nest, things got a little easier. The allure of short spontaneous trips popped up all the time. These days, I’d swear that my mom does more vacation planning than my dad. They are becoming notorious for randomly skipping town. Vegas here, New York there. More power to them.

Like defying your fear of heights by climbing a wall, it gets easier time after time. Overcome the first few trips and you start to overcome your hesitations. Before you know it, you’ll be a vacation master. Like anything else, mental health takes conditioning and practice. Vacations are big wins for your mental health.

Work Hard, Play Hard, Rest Hard

Most people don’t mention the third part. You need to be vigilant about rest if you’re going to maintain a work hard play hard lifestyle. All three forces need to balance out for you to sustain a productive, fruitful and healthy life. Let me say that again: keep work, play and rest in balance in your life. Bedtime is a magical thing if you observe it regularly. Scheduled playtime and vacations really wake you up. Don’t let work suck you away. Save an equal amount of time and energy to live the good life and recharge your batteries while still getting things done.