Stress – Learn to Switch Off

I didn’t plan to, but I ended up having a summer break from blogging. Yet again I’ve tinkered with the format, design and overall direction of where I’m heading. The bottom line is that writing this blog is always going to be a pleasure rather than a stress. I hope you continue to enjoy reading it.


Holiday from Stress, or a Stressful Holiday?

As I write this most schools in the UK have reopened after the summer holiday (or vacation).  My daughters don’t return to University for a few weeks and all three are currently enjoying themselves in hot foreign locations  on holiday.

Whilst holidays have always made a big hole in our family budget,  I have always been grateful that we have made the most of opportunity’s to go away on holiday as a family.  Its interesting how far out of our comfort zone we step sometimes when going on holiday. When booking up we are dazzled by the attractions that await, and don’t ponder on the stresses that are involved in getting to the resort!

How do you  Switch Off?

What has prompted this reflection on holidays is a recent article in the London Times * by former Government minister William Waldergrave. His point was that great leaders knew how to take “real holidays” – not just working from a different location. There are always those who think the world (or certainly their world) will fall apart if they take a day off.

Waldergrave argues that this ability to switch off, by going on holiday, was also part of being multi-dimensional:-

All the evidence is that the very great have curiosity, other interests, hinterland, culture – call it what you will – and though they may single-handedly rally the free world against Nazism or lead an army of foot from Greece to Afghanistan and back to Babylon, their minds have more than one track.

The above references were linked to Churchill’s love of painting and Alexander the Great debating philosophical issues with his teacher Aristotle.  Even at times of great crisis and where major decisions have to be made, great leaders find time to switch off.

One great cause of stress is feeling we “ought” to be attending to work rather than allowing ourselves a chance to switch off.  Apart from how effective we remain if constantly working with few breaks, ultimately we wear ourselves out and are no good to anyone.

The other side to taking time out away from a problem, is that we can return to it refreshed and with different perspectives. What was previously overwhelming us can now seem trivial.  What was once unsolvable can be dealt with quite simply.

* I like to link to sources, but unfortunately The Times now charge for their online access. Time to change newspaper!

Kate September 3, 2010 at 2:43 pm

Many people feel guilty about taking a break. There always seems to be so much to do and so little time, so a little ‘me time’, seems like a guilty pleasure, let alone a 2 week holiday!!
However, if we really prioritise these things, are they really so important that they can’t wait? Shouldn’t a break sometimes go to the very top of our to do list? I think so.
I agree that after a holiday we come back with renewed vigour, more energy and get things done twice as fast as when we are just plodding away with no end in sight.

David September 4, 2010 at 9:39 am

Thanks for your comment. Guilt is at the heart of feeling stressed – whatever type of break (whether 5 minutes or 2 weeks) is going to have little benefit if mentally we beat ourselves up for taking it.

SenseiMattKlein September 4, 2010 at 2:15 am

This struck a chord with me. I force myself to go overseas nearly every year. It is the only way I can truly “switch off”. Do not do anything relating to work during this time. It is amazing how refreshed and ready to go I feel when I get back. Like your Churchill and Alexander the Great analogies.

David September 4, 2010 at 9:42 am

Thanks for your comment. Last night I went for a walk with my wife by the beach and nearly everyone we passed had a mobile (cell) phone glued to their ear. If we take work or home problems with us its not a proper break!

Life Coach Lori October 31, 2010 at 6:20 am

I’ve recently come to realize that although I’m good about not using my cell phone at times and interspersing small breaks into daily life – I’m not always good at shutting my brain off (mainly work related) during those times. Too many ideas!

When I go on a “mental health field trip” I find that taking a notepad with me and writing out my ideas, helps me to clear my mind and then I can mentally relax more. When I purposefully do this, I get some of my best ideas.

The other “hole” I discovered in my process is that because I have built in small breaks, I don’t usually take the big break that I need (i.e. a full day off from everything, a week long vacation, etc.) I’ve noticed that when I do those things, I return to my “regularly scheduled program”, much more productive and energized.

Thanks for the post. It served as a good reminder to me.

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