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Take care of yourself. It’s something most of us don’t do very well. Do you? Admit it – it’s last on your list of things to do that never get done. But now you’ve noticed how depleted you feel mentally and physically.
Remember in the 1950s and 1960s when they told us that technology was going to create a world where we’d have more leisure time than work time. The problem was going to be finding enough leisure time activities to keep ourselves active and alert. Work was going to take up a very small percentage of our time and boredom was going to be our biggest concern.
Instead none of us have any time for anything anymore. We’re in a mad race to get the work done, get the kids wherever they’re going, get dinner, read what we didn’t at work, run to work out, rush to relax and all the time we’re watching the clock, like it’s going to help us solve something.
I have three suggestions that help me escape and stay happy: go outside, go home and go away.
Most of us work indoors in recycled air and fluorescent light. My office this past year has been in the basement with no window due to a renovation project. Many days I felt like my brain was fried. When I felt completely depleted, it was easy to walk outside and breathe some fresh air. If the weather was nice, I might walk for ten minutes. If not, I would just stand on the porch and breathe and look at the land, the trees, the plants, the birds.
Nature has a cadence far different than the one technology has created for most of us. While a wild storm may whip through occasionally, nature is mostly relaxed. Things grow over time. Snow falls softly. Waves roll in. Sunrises and sunsets are not hurried. Like Ralph Waldo Emerson says, “The sky is the daily bread for the eyes.”
Being outside allows us to fall into rhythm with nature and because her rhythm is relaxed, our rhythm relaxes too. Give yourself the gift of several forays outside each day. Maybe it will only be for two or three minutes. Just get out there and take some deep breaths. Go outside each day to see the wonder of the earth and feel your connection to the whole world. You’ll come back into your work space with a different attitude.
Even if they are paying you tremendous amounts of overtime or one of those incredibly inflated salaries, you owe it to yourself to leave work on time at least two or three days a week. Money does not replace time. Nor does it replace the wear and tear on your body, mind and soul.
I can’t tell you how many corporate executives I’ve worked with who insisted that nothing in their lives was more important than their families. They didn’t seem to notice that their families were the people that they didn’t see.
There is probably nothing I can think of that has garnered me more thanks and gratitude than when I have worked with people and insisted that they leave work on time at least three days a week. It’s like I’ve given them their lives back. And in a way I have. So go ahead. Shock everyone. Go home.
In this world of technology, nothing has been more adversely influenced than vacations. I know of almost no one, including me, who goes away for a vacation and is really totally away. Even I feel that I have to check my e-mail and voice mail twice a day when I’m away.
The word vacation comes from the Latin word “vacatio.” It means “freedom.” Vacation is defined as “a time of respite from something; a scheduled period during which activity is suspended.” Does anyone do that anymore? Well, as of this moment I’m going to. There’s no reason not to. Who can’t live without me for a week or two? Get serious. Everyone can. And everyone can live without you, too. You think they can’t forgive me, but you’re wrong. In saying this, I’m not talking about your children or your family.
I’m talking about the people who you work for and work with.
Look carefully at the word “vacation.” See the “vacate” hiding in there. That’s vacate, go, be gone, get outta there, vamoose.
Bob Mueller is senior director of mission & stewardship at Hosparus. The views in this column are those of the writer.