Everyone needs time away from work – this is a fact (or an inconvenient truth, depending on your relationship to work). It's why employment legislation dictates the minimum amount of vacation time an employer establishes for their employees, and their right to take ALL OF IT. On Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs it is the second tier, the one that speaks to family and health (the one right above food and water, and just below career and self-actualization... that's right, you can't enjoy what you have if you're not rested and healthy, that needs to come first).
But sometimes work comes with us on our vacations, and we don't even know it. Let me explain.
Check in. Right now as you are reading this, what is your posture like? Are you hovered over your computer/phone, reading as quickly as you can so you can move on to the next thing on your to-do list? Are you hunched up? Jaw tensed? Are your muscles tight? Are you poised to “move on”? Yup, you and everyone else who is poised to get stuff done.
This physical posture exists because you assume it in many facets at work, it's deeply ingrained in your muscle memory. Let’s call it the “I am going to get work DONE” posture, or "work pose" for short. Think about how many hours a day you're balled up and tense, hunched over a laptop or keyboard. No wonder you need vacation - your body does too. Do you assume an equally intense “I am on VACATION” pose when you're away? Is your body able to become more relaxed, fluid, supple, rested when you're not at work? If you return from a vacation and it feels as if you never left, you may be bringing your work pose with you on vacation.
Work pose happens when we want to drive the maximum amount of productivity out of something; we engage in it with DETERMINATION so fully that we are physically tensed for much of the time, even when it isn't work. Your muscles know this well; they assume the “pose”. This is how work pose comes with you on vacation. I have a wonderful person in my life who is encouraging me to meditate; she remarks that one should move softly into meditation. To help me see exactly what she means, she imitates “work pose” in her chair (shoulders hunched, arms tensed, resting bitch face on) and says “and now I am going to MEDITATE!” Clearly meditating with "work pose" is not going to be effective at all. Neither is vacationing with it.
You will never be able to fully derive all the benefit out of your vacation if you cannot be present for yourself. Vacations have the advantage of taking us out of routine and getting our bodies engaged in something different (like horse back riding, swimming, or just laying on a beach), but vacations are brief. If you have a jam-packed vacation schedule you are also likely spending time in your “work pose” getting the luggage sorted, reading the GPS, trying to get somewhere on time, etc. Try relaxing your muscles; if you're struggling with this here's a great way to un-do "work pose":
We have a costly problem in North America: many of us are not taking our vacations (to the tune of over a billion dollars in unused vacation time every year). Vacations can be costly, more and more of us are choosing to defer them, but we need a full and complete break from work (7-14 consecutive days) to uncurl ourselves from "work pose" - and re-train our bodies to relax away the tension. Vacations release "work pose", but it can take a week to "stand down" from work pose. If you never go on a multi-day vacation, releasing "work pose" gets harder and harder to do.
You're passionate about what you do, and your body will be tense from time to time, so it's beneficial to “check in” and acknowledge how you are sitting/standing. Stopping to follow the guidance of your inner fitness instructor - taking full breaths, stretching and loosening up tense muscles - intentionally taking on "vacation pose". Asking yourself from time-to-time “what do I need right now?”. If you do this more often you will be “in the moment” and that allows you to catch up with yourself, to meet your needs (take a break, grab a drink, move away from your desk).
It creates a new way of being at work, the “I am going to live well” pose, the one where you look after yourself and care enough to breath deeply knowing you are good at what you do, and it will all get done whether you push into it or not. Honouring yourself at work will mean vacations are restful too, not just a “change” but a restorative break.
So, as you're reading this, check your posture and your expectations of yourself – go softly into whatever you choose to pursue, getting more enjoyment from it. Have a great vacation.
Working with Carleen, I don't hate my job anymore! And I didn't have to change employers."
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I believe in empowering others in many tangible ways. When I learn new career strategies or see something that might help others, I share it using my blog and website.