One of the best decisions I’ve made all year is to take a trip to Dublin, Ireland. I went back and forth about international travel during a pandemic, but I think the approaching winter will be very bad so I took a chance to create memories that hopefully will sustain me. I’m not here to tell you to take a chance with your own health but I would encourage you to create some time for your own getaway. Even if you can’t take a trip across an ocean, take your PTO!
When I worked full-time jobs, I fell into that trap of not taking proper time off because I worried the place would fall apart without me or that the work I’d come back to would not be worth the break. I don’t think I’m alone in that.
Part of that is our egos talking, and part of it is the toxic nature of the work environment. Yes, you are a great employee, but if your job will grind to a halt without one person, then the organization is not structurally sound. And some of us fear that if a company realizes they can get along without you for a week, maybe they don’t need you at all, and you’ll return to a lost job. Then there’s the dread of coming back to work and discovering no one took up your slack and left you even more work to deal with upon your return, so the fear of playing catch-up can be a strong deterrent to taking your vacation time.
Still, some people already use up every bit of PTO because of caretaking responsibilities or health reasons. The American workplace is notoriously stingy when it comes to providing time off and it can be very easy to burn through your allotment, especially if you have children or chronic illness. For those of you in this situation, it is my hope that you can find a way to take time off just for the pleasure of yourself. No doctor’s appointment. No childcare emergency. No flare-up. Even if it’s just a single day of no one in need of you but you, I hope you can make that happen.
Whatever your fear or barrier, TAKE YOUR TIME OFF. YOU HAVE EARNED IT. YOU DESERVE IT.
But how? Especially when travel can be expensive and stressful?
I strongly endorse “staycations,” taking time off and staying at home. Maybe you can explore parts of your hometown you’ve never been to before. Be a tourist in your city. You can get a hotel room and gorge yourself on room service and crisp linen you don’t have to wash. Post-pandemic, many hotels began offering staycation packages to keep revenue flowing and to offer people a chance to escape their homes after the long lockdown.
If a hotel staycation is out of budget, look into local house-sitting options. This may be a good idea for those of you who need a change of scenery but need to remain close to family.
Whether you stay home, do a day trip, or travel through time zones, you need a break from work. Allow yourself rest. When I worked full-time, I would often use my vacation time to go on writing retreats. It was still a form of work, I suppose, but it was creative work, fulfilling work, and it allowed me to stay in touch with my art. In the office, I’d start to feel hopeless about my professional dreams, but I’d schedule my vacation for these retreats and it would replenish my soul with hope, reminding me I was more than a desk jockey.
Everything around us will let us know when it needs a reset. Cars shut down and create problems far more expensive than the cost of regular maintenance. Think of how often turning something off then back on is enough to fix an issue. Some animals, like bears, snakes, and squirrels, go into hibernation to survive winter’s inhospitable environment. Nature, in all forms, creates rest for itself. Humans are no different.
I went to Dublin as a treat to myself for accomplishing a major goal. When I got back and talked to my mom, she commented on how good and rejuvenated I sounded. That’s exactly what I wanted for myself— a rejuvenation. I feel better able to tackle my inbox and get back on the freelance grind.
We need more than just sleep as a form of rest. Give yourself permission to take a break. Hit refresh.