Looking at the time and date display in the bottom right hand corner of my computer screen reminds me that June has given way to July, and that in a few weeks July will give way to August. Summer is here, and so naturally people’s attention is turning towards ‘getting away’ for the annual break. Perhaps you have already booked and are looking forward to checking in to the hotel in the brochure? Perhaps you are intending to grab a ‘late availability deal’ at a bargain price over the next few weeks? Maybe you are taking some time off, but are spending it at home as a ‘staycation’? Whatever your plans, I think it’s important to have that change of pace, where we can have a break from the norm and recharge our batteries.
Sometimes I find that ‘switching off’ is not something certain clients can do easily. Sure, you might be sunning yourself on the white sands of that beautiful coastal resort, but if your smartphone is periodically letting you know that work is piling up back at the office, your ability to relax may be hampered. You may even find it easier to ‘keep going’, so that you don’t have to spend that period ‘getting up to speed’ with things that have been happening in your absence. It can be tempting to equate ‘self-care’ with being ‘selfish’, yet in my experience nothing could be further from the truth.
To take our foot ‘off the gas’, and to change into a different gear for a period often allows us, when we re-engage with our daily activities, to do so with renewed vigour – if we let ourselves step back for a time. If we are overworked this stepping back can be difficult, but I would argue that it is essential to seek out minibreaks if we are to continue to remain effective over the longer term. There may be a thousand and one excuses not to relax and give ourselves the rest our minds, bodies and spirits need, but I would suggest that in using those excuses we may be storing up trouble for the future.
Compartmentalisation can help here. If you really cannot leave your work phone in the drawer at home while you board the plane, limit the time you spend with it each day. Having a ‘work hour’, where you turn the office phone on and read through your emails and messages for a strict 60 minutes, can mean that you stay up to date but are not overwhelmed. If there are five important emails that have come through, this is where your skill at prioritising needs to come in. You may only have time to respond to three emails properly in that hour, so two will need to be left for tomorrow’s work hour. Don’t be tempted to spend an extra 15 minutes responding to them all – they will still be there to action tomorrow, I promise you!
There is a saying that goes something like ‘a change is as good as a rest’, and in my own life I have found it to be very true. Sitting with a low level of anxiety about what you will have to do when you turn on the phone or laptop tomorrow will eat into your relaxation time and defeat the purpose of your break. I would imagine, however, that if you end up sitting on a huge inflatable ring being pulled by a speedboat, your mind will not be on the office! I guess the point here, is that sometimes ‘relaxing by doing’ is more relaxing than ‘relaxing-by-sitting-by-the-pool-yet-actually-worrying-about-x-y-or-z’. If speedboats aren’t really your thing (and to be honest, they aren’t really mine), visiting a local museum or hiring a car to explore the island will do much the same job.
The only thing we can’t ‘get away from’ when we ‘get away from it all’ is, of course, ourselves. Could you benefit from recognising the valid need for looking after your own well-being and – crucially – give yourself permission to do that? Over time we can learn that ‘letting go’ every once in a while, can lead to us having a firmer grasp on things when we pick them up again.
Rob Oglesby is a fully qualified and insured therapeutic counsellor who is a registered member of the British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy (BACP). He runs the membership office for the Association for Counselling and Therapy Online (ACTO UK), and is also a course tutor for a major online counselling training provider in the UK. Rob offers online counselling to private clients worldwide via secure video call, encrypted email and live instant messaging sessions. He has a keen interest in technology and how this impacts on the therapeutic relationship. More information can be found at Ashwood Therapy.