Self-Care: Do You Actually Use Your Vacation to Unplug?
It is hard - very hard - for me to quiet my mind enough to actually rest.
In the past, me doing absolutely nothing felt like a complete waste of time. Surely there was something more productive to do, right?
Moving a project forward a bit more?
Watching a business coaching video?
Or how about something even more noble like:
Volunteering my time in my church or community?
Babysitting for a friend?
Cooking dinner for my neighbor who just had a baby?
If we allow ourselves to think on it just a little bit, we will always figure out something else to do with our time besides… nothing.
But the thing is, doing nothing is actually doing something. And that something is rest.
Last week, I was off vacationing in Myrtle Beach with my family for a few days.
And I had a choice.
I could choose to fill my time up with doing all the things, visiting all the vacation places, keeping up on my social media, or wrapping up a few small work tasks that didn’t get done before I hit the road,
I could choose to only indulge myself in life-giving activities that would actually refill my cup so that when I returned home, I wasn't just as exhausted as I was before leaving.
I could choose to actually take a few days to unplug. To actually take a vacation. Imagine that.
I didn't pull this off perfectly, but I definitely put in a lot of intentional effort to get as close as possible.
What does it mean to unplug on vacation?
I think every person approaches down time differently. What is refreshing to one person could be draining for another.
Personally, when I’m on vacation, I usually need the following things to happen:
No or extremely limited social media
No checking email
Very few scheduled activities (if any)
No set time to wake up in the morning
No set time to go to sleep
A lot of books
A lot of talking and connecting with my family and friends
A lot of good food
A lot of good coffee
And some really good cupcakes!
That’s how I refill my cup, and that is how I best utilize my vacation time in order to be ready to re-engage with my work and family responsibilities when I arrive back home.
My vacation rhythm
I’ve also realized that my vacation time tends to have a rhythm. I’ve found that 7 days of vacation is not quite long enough for me. Ideally, I would like to be able to take 14 complete days off (#goals), with two of those days being travel days. (BONUS GOAL: Eddie and I would like to take a 30-day sabbatical within the next two years!)
But, 2 weeks isn’t my family’s current dynamic. My husband is not able to take 14 days off at one time, so we usually have to work with a 4 to 7 day vacation period.
So, what does a 7-day vacation away from home usually look like for me? It normally breaks down to something like this:
Day 1: We travel to our destination - we usually try to head out early enough to have the afternoon and evening to relax.
Day 2 - 4: We do nothing really slow. It usually takes me about 3 days to settle my brain down enough to actually start to relax. So, normally there are no big activities besides being at a pool, at the beach, eating out, playing games, and watching movies.
Days 5 - 6: By the time we get to the later part of our vacation, I’ve gotten to the point that I’m now ready to take the kids out and enjoy some activities.
My kids are usually troopers when it comes to allowing Eddie and me the slow-down days we desperately need in order to unwind, but by Day 5, they are BEGGING us for something else to do. We let them know at the beginning of the vacation what our plans are and when we are going to do them so they can at least feel like they know what to expect.
Day 7: We travel back home.
Figuring out what you need
I will say, however, that I’ve spent quite a bit of time identifying exactly what I personally need in order to take care of myself and enjoy my down time. My vacation may sound completely boring to you. You may desire to fill yours with activities and unique once-in-a-lifetime experiences. If that is what you need to refresh and renew, then that is exactly how I suggest spending your vacation. You must do what works for you! Not what works for someone else.
To some people, a trip to Disney is heaven. To others, you might as well shoot them now. Don’t mimic someone else’s vacation dream. Identify your flow and just. do. that.
Once you understand how to renew yourself, understanding what activities (or absence of activities) actually work for you - when they work for you and how they work for you - then you can apply them in the precise way you need to when the time comes. This is ninja level self-care stuff I'm laying down here.
So, tell me; what does it mean for you to truly unplug and refresh your soul? What does a restful and enjoyable vacation look like for you? Please share with me in the comments below. I’d love to hear about how you use vacations in your self-care plan.
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