I knew that July was going to be extremely rough month. Lots of travel. Lots of late evenings. Lots of activities. Lots of emotion. Lots of responsiblities.
As a result, I intentionally planned two weeks “off” in August. I targeted the weeks that were the last two weeks of summer for my kids. The first week, I found that I couldn’t relax. I had errands to run, especially over things that I had delayed due to the travel. I scheduled appointments that had to wait until I was in town. I needed to work with a teammate to get a course finished (we were both not traveling that week). I had to catch up on emails and administrative work. Then add on spending time doing fun activities with the kids for their break…well, recovery was not really happening.
Then this past week started. My errands were done. My work was mostly caught up. My appointments finished. This week was just about me and the family relaxing. I read books. I began teaching my kids how to pass a volleyball. I participated in a water balloon fight. I went to an amusement park. I got a massage. I worked out. And I didn’t work. Sure, my slack notification number was quickly rising. Sure, there might be important emails. Sure, I could have gotten further ahead on some work. But as the week went on, I realized how long it truly took me to let go.
The truth is even without all the of “tasks” that I scheduled the first week I was “off”, I would have created them. I find it difficult to go from doing a ton to do nothing overnight. It took a week before I mentally allowed myself to have a “do nothing” for a day. There is no denying it…I feel guilty when I’m slacking. When I could have done a load of laundry or working on charts for an upcoming course. Part of that guilt is from my obsessive need to not be late or last minute on things. Part of the guilt is from knowing how much I could be getting done. Part of the guilt is from thinking “I’m home, I need to make sure to help a ton so that it offsets when I’m not home”.
I’m fully aware this guilt is my own doing. I’m also fully aware that once I do spend a few days “doing nothing”, my energy definitely picks back up and my interest to tackle things heightens (heck, so far, I’ve only taken a few minutes to write this blog post). Here’s what I just became aware of…my definition of “off” means big vacation, which let’s be honest is typically anything but relaxing most of the time – especially with kids. That one mental health day doesn’t really cut it (for me), my brain needs a couple of days just to truly rest (stop stressing alone takes a day or so). I’ve continued to take a mental health day throughout the year but why haven’t I taken a few in a row? Because of the last part of my guilt…am I really pulling my weight in this family?
So it took a year (ok, it took a really tough month that I needed a recovery) for me to get this…I can’t pull my weight if I’m exhausted. Mental health days are essential for everyone. Some of us need one day, some of us need more just to actually get to that point. I think it’s about time I start penciling them in…so I don’t find myself months out before taking my next few days.
How do you decompress?