The trouble with holidays seems to be that they don’t come round quickly enough. So when they finally arrive, we really feel in need of them – whether it’s a totally relaxing, lie-on-the-beach kind of break, a complete change of scene, or an adrenaline-rush activity holiday! I once heard Caroline Myss talk about how some of us seem to need to justify our need for a break – you know, when you hear someone say, ‘yes, I really needed a holiday, I was so exhausted‘. As if apologising for needing to stop working for a while. Her response was amusing, but dead right – ‘just take a holiday when you’re not exhausted, when you can really enjoy it!’
And how long is the optimum holiday? Because for many or us, we are so stressed out before we actually go away, that it takes several days to relax and really start to enjoy ourselves. So we might only really appreciate the last few days, and then, if life back home isn’t really something to look forward to, the last bit of the holiday can be spent dreading the amount of work which will be awaiting our return! That’s if we haven’t succumbed to checking emails and making calls during our holiday, that is!
So, if holidays don’t come around soon enough, and then we don’t fully relax and enjoy them when they do, what is the answer? Well, for me, it’s building regular breaks, or mini-holidays, into every week, and into every day. If I’ve had a busy week, or lots of stress, or not enough sleep – I stop and acknowedge that it’s time to take care of myself. I might have an early night and read a favourite book, or I might give myself the luxury of an afternoon off to create something lovely (like a scrummy cake, perhaps!) When my son burnt his hand a few weeks ago, and we took him to A&E that evening, and then had an early start to the specialist hospital the next morning, I had very little sleep, and, as you would imagine, plenty of stress. I was a bit of an emotional wreck for 2 or 3 days, to be honest. So when he went back to school, with reminders to be careful with his hand, not to get the dressing wet, and so on, I could have just worried about him all day long until he got back home (that would have been so easy to do – and of course I did think about him all through the day). I could have spent the day making up for missed time at work, catching up on all those emails, coursework and everything else that had been put on hold. And I did, for part of the day. But what I really, really needed was to stop, to take time out, and to calm my frazzled mind. I had managed some meditation each day, just a little bit, and that had helped. But now I needed just to do something I would enjoy, and that would help me get back to normality. So I got on with a sewing project, just for a couple of hours, something calm, peaceful and just for me. I did a bit of yoga, and minded my breath. I ate healthily, and generally took time out for myself.
And I didn’t feel guilty. Because I knew I needed it, and that it would help me to cope with the hospital visits yet to come, and the support I still needed to give. It would help me to come back to my calmer, better self. It would help me to feel well (in the true sense of the word, rather than just the absence of a specific illness).
I truly believe that everyone knows, deep down, when they need to have a break. It doesn’t have to be long, and it doesn’t have to be expensive. It just needs to be at the time that they need it. If you hear yourself proudly telling people how late you stayed at work, how many hours of ironing you did, or how little sleep you had, then your ego is far too tied up in achieving and doing. So many stresses and illnesses can start this way. It’s time to look after yourself before illness makes enforced rest inevitable. When you’re too ill to enjoy it. Take time now, each week, each day, to do something positive for your own wellbeing.