Three Things I Learned from Ten Days Away
So many of us are judged in our lives by how quickly and how much we can get done. Even if others aren’t judging us directly, we can be our own worst critics when we don’t get the things done we intended to over the course of a day or week. Because of this, it can be hard to cultivate a mindset that supports slowing down, getting centered, or simply relaxing.
And yet this place of being centered, rested and relaxed is one that enables us to bring our best into all that we do – while enjoying each day more.
I recently had the chance to take a ten day vacation in southern Europe. It’s been a truly busy and full year so far, and I’m deeply grateful for the opportunities that have come my way. Yet I’d also worked myself into a place where I wasn’t bringing as much of the positive, grounded attitude and energy I wanted to work and to life.
Even with regular practices like meditation and yoga that truly rejuvenate me, the pace and the extent of my schedule had worn me down a bit. I found my energy dragging a few days before the trip. Little things were getting to me that I normally wouldn’t think twice about. I knew I was needing more of a break than even a day or two off over a weekend.
So what happened during and after vacation? I experienced a few reminders and realizations that I’d like to share with you here.
- When I’m rushing around, I tend to create unnecessary stress for myself and drain my energy.
Many of us get a true sense of accomplishment and even an adrenaline rush from what we are able to do during the day, but too much rushing and busyness over the long term creates stress. It is mentally, physically and emotionally draining. Although the right balance differs for each of us, we all benefit from time to pause, center, and truly relax.
Many yoga classes start with a transitional period between outside life and the practice itself. During this class opening, students are encouraged to be aware of their own breath. This helps to bring more presence to the moment and to prepare mentally, physically, and spiritually for practice. For some (myself included some days) the process of slowing down can be quite difficult.
I observed a similar challenge of slowing down going into vacation. On day two of the trip, I got unnecessarily stressed by a misunderstanding that caused barely a one hour delay to our schedule. Because my days tend to be quite full, it would have been easy for me to bring a pattern of rushing into vacation. But I chose at that point to consciously relax into the pace of the trip.
Although I’ve made many adjustments over the years to bring more presence and a slower, more intentional pace to my days, I tend to have a lot of energy and a wide range of interests. It’s easy to fall into old patterns of overfilling the day and then rushing from one thing to the next.
When we are continually rushing from one activity to the next, it’s easy to get used to being hurried and even impatient. So much so that it becomes challenging to relax even when we are in a place – such as vacation or yoga class – where we have the opportunity to do just that.
If this is true for you, ask yourself if you are rushing because you’re under stress or if you might be under stress because you are rushing? If so, is it always necessary to hurry? Might you be able to run your life just as effectively – or more so – at a slightly slower pace? If so, take some small steps to slow things down. Find a more intentional pace one day at a time.
- The quality I experience in each moment is more meaningful to me than quantity.
We live in a culture and an age of quantity. Our media surrounds us with the notion that bigger, faster, and more are synonymous with better. We’re told – subtly and not so subtly – that we need to find more – more possessions, more time, and even more love – to really be happy.
And yet a smaller quantity of something that is high quality will tend to be more satisfying. I am a bit of a chocoholic and we traveled with a box of one of my favorite chocolates: Lindt Dark Chocolate Swiss Thins. I was reminded how a single piece of a favorite chocolate or a thin spread of butter on warm, fresh bread can be more satisfying than a large, elaborate meal with foods that we don’t love or that aren’t prepared well.
Similarly, it is not the quantity of time or experiences that matters, but the quality that we experience during each moment in time. When you focus on quality, all of your life experiences can be more meaningful. One fulfilling experience can make life so much sweeter and stay with you much longer than more things or a series of empty moments packed together.
If this is sometimes true for you, ask if you are cheating yourself of quality in the pursuit of quantity? If so, might you be able to set an intention to choose quality over quantity, to make more of each moment? Every minute is an opportunity to love yourself and others, to develop your own confidence, to give to someone or show respect for another.
- My success and enjoyment of life depends on regularly taking time to deeply rest and rejuvenate.
We all need to time to rest and rejuvenate. And yet even if we are doing pretty well day to day – say getting enough sleep most nights, eating well, taking some time off on evenings and on weekends – we all need to take a break, to step away in a bigger way from time to time.
Taking a real vacation – out of the office, away from constant connectivity – gave me the time and space to come to a clearer level of thinking and being. After all, we know that creativity happens when the brain has time to relax, reflect and talk to itself. And I know that my best work comes after periods of rest and time away.
My conclusion from this vacation and time away?
I need to rest and unplug more often. My success and my business depends as much on the moments I spend taking a real break as it does on the day to day effort I put in with clients, with program and content development, even with the business side of running my business.
So how often is enough?
That’s up to you, of course… maybe you start by giving yourself one day a week or one weekend a month or two full weeks a year of a real vacation.
During those times, make a clear choice about what your day is about. The most important thing is that you allow yourself to truly take a break. If it’s a rest day, no worrying about what still needs to be done at work, no incessant thinking about an upcoming decision.
Then the challenge is often to respect that choice… so you have time to process and integrate everything that’s happened. If you notice your thoughts going in the direction of work or worries, gently redirect them and give yourself full permission to rest and re-center.
It also helps to consider your WHY: why is it important that you bring your best to each day? Is it for your family, your clients, your loved ones? For me, I want to make the space to keep growing and to bring positive energy and creativity to my clients, loved ones and to cherished moments during the day.
So let me ask you: when and how do you rest and unplug? Can you schedule some time to do just that this summer?
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