Vacations are a great invention!
This is a quote from a friend and I happen to agree. I also think they happen to offer a lot of wisdom for everyday living.
My personal favorite vacation is the go someplace quiet and beautiful, kick back, leave the world behind, do very little, and truly relax. I had just such a trip a couple weeks ago and it’s a lesson from this kind of vacation I’d like to share.
We need time OFF.
Downtime. Time in which we can relax or in which we can get fired up and use a lot of energy on things we really enjoy. Full on. Not crammed into a tiny corner of leftover exhausted weekend.
If we look at the world of living things, we find a lot of cycles – day/night, winter/summer, dry/wet, plant/harvest, cook/eat, wake/sleep are just a smattering. In our busy modern lives, the cycles become blurry. Periods of rest are interrupted by bings and pings, night and day are often defined by artificial light and alarm clocks. Meals, work, social events and time with kids morph together instead of being given their own time and energy.
I am not on a rant here about the woes of modern life, and I’m happy to have my electric lights and the option to snack on the road. But there is a serious price we pay when all the elements of life blur together and we end up feeling stressed out, spread thin and multitasking to the point where things all blend together.
Without cycles to shape the rhythm of life, we end up with a lot of noise and static instead of the sense of satisfaction found in deep and focused engagement in what we are doing.
When the “on” button doesn’t get turned off, the buzz and hum inside our bodies turns into tension and exhaustion.
Time ON and time OFF is a really valuable cycle to cultivate in our lives. I’d like to suggest that we add more of this into our routines on a much more regular basis.
How about this – vacation all the time! Yes, vacations in the ways we typically think of them, but also vacations on our weekends and vacations on our days off, vacations at home and vacations away — and even vacations throughout the day at work!!
Quality time off not only gives us a break, helps us to rest or rejuvenate, and feels good, but it also changes the flavor of “on” time. It’s like doing dishes on vacation – the pressure of too much to do fades and the sense of dishes being a part of the cycle of work and play makes it feel meaningful and even sometimes fun.
On my recent vacation, dishes were one of the few “chores” that needed to be done. It was obvious that it was an important task, and it was equally clear that many many other things were not. Imagine if we had this type of clarity in the muck of day to day living.
What if time OFF was scheduled first?
Not just in big chunks periodically, but as a key element in our lives. If we took it as seriously as any other task or responsibility in life? If when someone asks us to do something when we have planned down time, we say, “I’m sorry but my calendar’s full.” (wo!?!?)
I know, I know, I hear ya – I have all the same arguments in my head. The, “well that would be nice, but…”, and the sense of longing paired with impossibility. But I also feel a deep resounding “yes” in my heart and my gut and my body relaxes and settles into that possibility.
So, how can we get to that yes and act on it?
Let’s take a look at how your body can be a guide to help you do this.
YOUR BODY KNOWS
Read over the instructions first. Get comfortable and then feel free to take as much or little time as you’d like.
1. Take a moment to check in with yourself and reflect on your experience of time on and time off.
What’s going on in your thoughts, your emotions and in your body? Do you have any sense of feeling stressed or spread thin from being “ON” too much? If so, see if you can be curious about it.
2. Remember a time when you had a really good experience of down time.
It might have been on a vacation or a day off. Perhaps it was an unexpected time when you had an extra hour to yourself or a surprise visit from a friend. Use your senses to help you paint as vivid a picture of this memory as you can. Consider what you saw, the sounds you heard, the tastes or smells, and the way your body felt, inside and out.
3. Imagine having more of this feeling in your life.
Not only on vacation, but at home and work. With your family. Alone. Can you envision one way that you could schedule more time OFF and truly make it a priority? Listen to what your body says to you about doing this – where do you feel a sense of “yes, I can do this” or “yes, this would feel good”? Can any part of you relax into the idea of creating more time off?
It’s really okay to start small. It can even be helpful.
Any increase in down time is better than no change at all. Making a specific plan is helpful. “Going to the lake on Sat afternoon” or “taking a five minute walk on my lunch break” are lot more likely to happen than “do something nice this weekend” or “take more breaks at work”.
When being “ON” is a real barrier to well being.
Sometimes inspiration or new ideas are enough to help make changes that lead to feeling better about something in our lives, but there are times when you need a lot more help.
This article is intended to provide some inspiration and a starting point for playing with the ideas in it. If you really struggle with being “on” all the time, feel really stressed out or have a hard time relaxing even when you try, you may benefit from professional help.
If you are considering therapy for yourself and you’re interested in a free consultation to see if a creative, body-centered approach to therapy might be right for you, please get in touch.