Recently, I was talking about stress management with a group of new teachers at a local school. As I talked about how a real vacation has many physical and mental-health benefits, some of the teachers discussed how they feel unable to really take time off even during their breaks. They feel that their work never really ends, and they take true pride in their identities as teachers.
I understand how difficult it can feel to take true time off, especially in education. However, I also know how imperative it is for our well-being that we all have time when we are 100% off-duty.
Some people can easily take vacation time. They take their personal time and put an automatic reply on their email -- and no one expects them to work while on vacation. When I used to work at clinics full-time, I enjoyed this privilege; however, I know many individuals have very different experiences of vacation time.
Regardless of how difficult or easy it is for you to take real vacation time, we all need to truly recharge our batteries. When we are not working, we can relax and sleep, if that is what we need. We can take time to better connect with family and friends. And we can pursue activities that help us renew ourselves and increase our energy. This may be going to museums, lying on a beach, or doing something active, such as hiking or surfing.
Fulfilling our needs in this way helps lower our stress levels and increases our happiness. It gives us new ideas and inspiration for our work. And it charges us up, enabling us to return to work or the classroom, ready to tackle new challenges. And taking vacation time protects us from burnout so that we can continue doing work we are passionate about.
Another benefit to vacations is that we get excited about their planning and anticipate what it will be like. This excitement and anticipation is so helpful for our mental health. It is incredibly important in life that we regularly have things we are looking forward to. This can be a vacation- fantasizing about and planning our upcoming time off. It can also be smaller things, such as a day trip or a meal or concert with friends. This positive energy is so important in life.
So, if you find it is difficult to take true time off, put some energy into determining how you can actuate quality vacation time. This may mean blocking off some days of a school break and protecting those days truly for yourself, while knowing you may work on the other days. This may mean planning a vacation away home if this makes it easier for you to take real time off. Or, it may involve being with friends or family so that you spend time with them. Through trial and error, you will figure out what works for you. And then you can start seeing how vacation time brings you so many benefits and enables you to keep doing the work that you love.
Let me know what strategies you try and what works. I’d love to hear more!