Our holidays are booked. We prepare for a great time and look forward to enjoying being with friends, family and, most importantly, time away from work. However, many of my clients struggle with switching off during their holidays. Technology has enabled us to work from anywhere in the world, and it is so easy to check emails, jump on a Zoom call, and keep an eye on Teams or Slack messages. Recently, I have had a chance to work with a few leaders around the topic of self-care, and I have identified a few values and thinking traps that tend to stop us from switching off.
Value of Effectiveness/ Productiveness
We may need to be productive, and, on the surface, enjoying your holidays, sightseeing, and relaxing next to a pool is not bringing any results. It may appear that staying on top of our emails during holidays can save us time when we are back in the office, and we can quickly get up to speed with everything. However, studies show that taking time away from work increases productivity by 40%. Therefore, you can treat your holiday as an investment in future productivity. If you are very result-driven, challenge yourself on what ‘results’ mean. For example, how many books can you read during your holiday? How many days can you keep journaling? How many dance or swimming classes can you enjoy?
Value of Being in Control
This value shows up as ‘I need to know what’s going on in the business, what my direct reports do and what my clients request’. It may seem that you can prevent major crises at work by being involved in decision-making and monitoring work progress while on holiday so that you do not find yourself in a situation where you may not know about something after your break. Unfortunately, this behaviour can be seen by others as a lack of trust in your colleagues, limiting opportunities for others to step up. By being constantly ‘in the game,’ you are not allowing your team to take the initiative, and not allowing yourself to take a step back, get a different perspective and be able to recognise what is essential and what is just noise.
Value of Supporting Others
You care about your team and don’t want to leave them alone with this huge project. They maybe even ask if you would be available during your holiday to answer a few questions. You are a go-to person, always happy to help. You may experience the feeling of guilt when you need to say ‘no’ and set some boundaries. You may fear that you can damage the relationship if you don’t support others this time. However, would you expect others to support you when they are on holiday? Is it true that they can’t manage without your help? Or maybe they need reassurance? Could you empower them before you go on holiday and offer time after you return?
As with every behaviour that we show and every decision that we make – when we say ‘yes’ to something, at the same time, we say ’no’ to something else. I would like to share a few examples of values that we can neglect if we don’t switch off or focus on our self-care.
Value of Connection
This is a very broad value and can be understood on many levels. It can be about connecting with ourselves. What is it that is going on right now? What are your thoughts? What are the feelings? How do you experience them in your body? Have you been battling with a backache or tense muscle lately? The holiday is an opportunity to stretch, breathe, exercise and release tension. Take care of yourself first so that you can show your best self to others.
This value is also about connection to others, to our loved ones. When was the last time the conversation with your partner was about something other than the practicalities and operational stuff of everyday life (bills, groceries, chores, parental responsibilities)? When was the last time that you were fully present with your kids – engaging in their playtime? When did you last check in with your friend, sibling or parent?
If you come from a different country than you live and work in right now (maybe you can call yourself an ex-pat), you may be using your holiday to visit friends and family. And then this connection value is also about connecting to your culture. What are the places that you miss? What is the food that tastes like home? Which friends or relatives do you want to catch up with?
Value of Learning
You might be surprised to see this value in the context of switching off during holidays. There is no better way than to experience something to learn and remember. When you go sightseeing, attempt to speak a different language, are curious enough to observe the locals and are open to new experiences, you can easily learn a lot. You put yourself in an unknown situation and are naturally more present and engaged. Also, when you step back from everyday life and relax, you are more likely to get a different perspective and connect the dots. ‘Neuroscience is so clear, through PET scans and MRIs, that the ‘aha’ moment comes when you’re in a relaxed state of mind,” says Brigid Schulte, author of Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time.
Value of Fun
In our everyday life, we might be deprioritising the value of fun. Holidays give us ideal opportunities to engage in various activities and enjoy them. There are no expectations that we need to get something right or perfect; we need to immerse ourselves in the experience of sports, dance or cooking classes, read a funny book or just be silly with kids in the pool. All those activities will help regulate our hormones (reducing cortisol, increasing serotonin and dopamine).
Which values are you going to prioritise this summer?
If you resonate with some of these thoughts around self-care and you would like to explore your work/ life balance and boundary-setting further, please reach out and book a discovery call . . . .