I’m learning the importance of rest.

The Facebook memories popped up on my phone. It’s been a year since my travel last vacation.

I try to take a week “off” each quarter. We are self-employed so we are never really “off”. We check in with staff, answer email, solve problems, monitor my husband’s Grandmother (who lives with us) whenever we are “off”. Yet when on vacation, we relax more, play more and enjoy the time with no meetings! If at all possible we will travel out of the country for two of the 4 weeks. The non-travel weeks are staycations.

I did say I try… but the staycations are harder for us to honour. Without a commitment to get on a plane, we are really good at allowing life to creep in. We say yes to that really important client meeting that just can’t be booked at any other time. It’s only going to be an hour. Oh! And since we are home, I just pop into my weekly networking group and avoid getting a sub right? Before we know it, our staycation looks more like a light work week and less like a staycation.

Therefore, in March, when we had to cancel our trip south we also cancelled our vacation. With life-changing on a daily basis, we knew we would get no rest here by converting our vacation to a staycation. We would just try to take a longer vacation in the fall…

Then we cancelled the next planned staycations because everything was closed and vacation just didn’t seem practical. We told ourselves that instead of taking a week off, we would make the summer full of long weekends. We would take off every Friday. It didn’t work. I don’t think we took off even one.

Then as I did my Q4 planning, I deleted the vacation time I had planned for Q4 because it was clear there would be no sun, sand and ocean vacations for me. Besides, we had to start making the hard staffing decisions and it’s our year-end.

Does this sound familiar? Is this how your year has gone? Vacations cancelled, staycations didn’t work?

I thought in the end, it would be fine. It wasn’t. It isn’t.

I think my unconscious tried to slow me down in early August when I tripped on some stairs and sprained my ankle. But I didn’t hear it and kept going. By the time mid-September hit I found myself angry, less focused. The routines that kept me going through the last 6 months we no longer working. I felt … frustrated. Overwhelmed.

I know I wasn’t my most productive self. In fact, over the last month, I was finding ways to allow myself to get distracted and my creative energy was almost non-existent. But still, I kept going. Feeling guilty for not doing more, not doing enough. Until finally one morning, while journaling, I started writing over and over and over again the words: “I’m tired”. Until finally that weekend, at the urging of my coach, I took some rest. Just two days. A whole weekend!

Over a weekend of rest with lots of journaling and some Facebook memories, I realized that it had been a year since my last vacation. A year where the world was emotional, hard and full of stress and change. I realized that I had let work fill up my time. I stopped for lunch and dinner and did very little else. There were no more coffee dates, no drives to the office, no face to face meetings. I am home, at my desk almost all the time. The separation between home and work has become a little blurry. I talk to those who are working from home about setting up set work hours, having a routine for “going to work” and “leaving for the day”. Yes, I don’t follow my own advice.

I talk about the importance of self-care. About putting on your mask first. Yet, in so many ways I wasn’t taking care of me.

I thought I was. With my morning routines, my regular baths. My lunches outside. But I had forgotten to take time for rest, for play, for alone time. The batteries in those areas are low.

In one weekend I rested and I played a little. Yet, you cannot recover and recharge from a year of abuse in two days. I have more to do. Awareness is a start. I have to take a look at my ideal week and ensure I’ve scheduled time for rest, for play and I take advantage of the time I have an alone (which is rare now). Then, I have to hold myself to that time. My husband and I are also talking about taking two weeks for a staycation before the end of the year. We are thinking of even going to a hotel for a few nights or rent a cottage just to get away from the home office and the other obligations that come from being home.

What I’ve learned this year is the real importance, the value of rest. After those two days, my productivity went up significantly the first few days but I find it slipping again. I’m feeling angry again. At least now I know that this is a sign that my rest batteries are low.

Maybe you are like me … maybe you have not given yourself a break. Maybe you need to schedule some rest, play and alone time. If you do, please, please give yourself permission to rest and then do it. You need it.

“There is virtue in work and there is virtue in rest. Use both and overlook neither.”

Alan Cohen