Sunday, July 10, 2011

We All Need Some Time Off

I'm back from vacation and slowly settling back into the routine.  The true reality check will be returning to work tomorrow.  But for now, I am savoring each moment of the past week... days of drinking in the beauty of the ocean waves, the warmth of sand and sunshine, the soothing sound of rain outside the screened-in porch, and the excitement of spending time with family members who I also consider to be friends.

ND Magazine

When we returned to Chicago and our stuffed mailbox, I plopped down on the couch and paged through the latest Us Weekly as well as the summer issue of Notre Dame Magazine.  Yes, these two publications are in stark contrast to one another (though perhaps the "class notes" section of ND Magazine with updates on old classmates feeds the same need as celebrity gossip...), but in my post-vacation glow, I found one article in ND Magazine particularly interesting--Kerry Temple's "A Summer Night."

The theme of the Summer issue revolves around childhood and summer, and this piece definitely deals with those topics.  Oh, the glorious summer breaks from school of our childhood years... those weeks that are now filling up, even for kids of today's world, with commitments large and small.

But with my return to work looming, I found a few parts of Temple's feature to really ring true--especially the quotes from the Harvard Business Review, toward the end of the piece, which mention the "prolonged hyperactivity" and "debilitating frenzy" of the modern-day workplace (who can't relate to facing "elevated time pressures"?).  This trend demonstrates how necessary and beneficial "time off" from work truly is.  It seems counter intuitive but with regular breaks, relaxation, and a chance to recharge, we can all be more productive, not to mention more creative and... happier.

I feel the pressure that comes from being constantly "on" and busy and accessible... the world saying "go, go, go" all the time.   And I know I'm not alone.  In a couple of recent posts, Jess from Makeunder My Life hit a chord when she wrote about constantly checking her email and how badly she needed an "email intervention" -- that is, making a change and committing to NOT check every 5 seconds, NOT check on nights and weekends.  (Find out more and take the Email Intervention Pledge at MML.)

Without a breather every once in awhile, we just end up moving at a frantic pace, until we realize that we're holding our breath, suffocating, not being truly present, not being as smart and successful--and fulfilled--as we could be.

I want to hold onto the serenity provided by my vacation, but part of me knows it's impossible.  The emails, calls, meetings, stress will eventually draw me back into the tornado that is work.  At the heart of it, I like what I do, but the pace and the urgency can be challenging.  I can try to change my mindset and my attitude, to take a deep breath, complete one thing at a time, do my best.

But I know myself, and I know the peace won't last forever.  So here's to the past week, my own version of "summer vacation," which will hopefully sustain me during any crazy-busy days ahead.  And here's to hoping that I can continue to claim moments of relaxation throughout the rest of the summer and all the seasons to come.


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