Let's rest baby!

Let’s rest baby!

Hello dear reader,

during this season I hear a lot of friends and colleagues expressing the need for a long vacation, at least two weeks (more often three), to feel “completely detached” from work and “to rest”. In this post, I try to analyse the supposed benefits of this practice and argument why, at least for me, a different approach would be more beneficial.

A complete detachment from work should permit to:

  1. Enjoy a longer period of deep relaxation and rest
  2. Start fresh at work, with renewed energies and motivations
  3. Devote more time to pleasant activities neglected during the remainder of the year (reading, sports, hobbies…)
  4. Get back in touch with old friends and relatives.

Nothing seems wrong with those assumptions: it’s all good common sense, right? Well… let’s go over every item:

  1. Why should you need an extended period of rest? Unless you are recovering from illness or a traumatic event, it’s hard to imagine that you need fifteen days of complete rest to recover from a year of work. I think that it is better to “rest before you get tired”, since this approach makes resting much more efficient and helps to prolong the number of active hours in days, and days in a year. It is useless to work yourself into exertion before resting! Take that nap when you come home before doing your chores, stop for five minutes in the middle of a long run, take a day off work (if allowed, of course!) when you start feeling inefficient at your job, and you wander around meaninglessly. In other words, try to spread rest days over the year. Lastly, rest does not add up after a certain point: otherwise, I should be able to rest six months and then run a marathon!
  2. Let me understand: you lead a different kind of life for roughly twenty days, probably changing your waking time, the food you eat, you stop performing some activities (besides those work-related, of course) and begin to pursue others relentlessly. I see troubles coming: twenty days is more or less the amount of time needed for a new habit to kick in. In other words, you are trespassing the limit between an occasional (and refreshing) change of pace and an altogether new lifestyle. Going back to work, you’ll have to teach the old habits to your body and mind, adding unneeded effort to your comeback (which would already be plagued by tonnes of emails to read, tasks that became urgent, new matters to attend to, a lot of things to catch up with…).
  3. There is nothing wrong with devoting more time to pleasant (and, hopefully, also challenging) activities during holidays. My question is: why have you neglected them in the first place? Are you going to have a lot of action in a few weeks and then nothing again for almost a year? Complete fun for three weeks, a desperate longing for forty-nine? It seems like you are inflicting yourself, in the long run, more of a torture than of a treat. Instead of waiting for “those three magic weeks”, try to build a lifestyle that fits your hobbies. Sports, painting, reading, embroidery, cooking, playing good games and the likes can be very helpful activities during the year: try to fit them into your day by eliminating something unnecessary or unpleasant moments. On the other hand, holidays can be a great kickstart for some hobbies or habits! The spare time, maybe combined with a course, can help you in reaching the level of proficiency that can support you through the whole year.
  4. Do you have to wait for holidays to get in touch with someone in the 21st century? Make that phone call, write that SMS, use Skype or chat on Facebook with that person right now! This point is just an excuse.

Beware: I’m not so foolish to say that long vacation periods are always bad things! There are a lot of situations that just beg for that:

  • A thorough visit to a distant country
  • You need time to complete a big personal project (intensive training for a competition, building a piece of your house, studying to obtain a degree)
  • Getting married
  • You just had a baby
  • Someone needs your assistance (for example, in case of illness)

However, these are not situations that fit 100% the definition “complete detachment from work and rest”.

To summarise my point of view I’ll borrow a quote that got my attention (I don’t know who is the original author):

Instead of always waiting for your next vacation, you ought to create a life you don’t need to escape from.

Your working life will, sadly, be long: try to use your days off work wisely! Try to build a bit of holidays spirit into your every day of your life.

Until next time, get some well-deserved rest.

P.s.: The advice “rest before you get tired” comes from the excellent book “How to stop worrying and start living” by Dale Carnegie. The title is bad marketing, but the content is top class!

P.p.s.: I’m in the middle of a nineteen days vacation, my children needed my support for an extra week. I think I will need some help going back to work… 🙂