It’s that time of year, where everyone is feeling like they are on the ‘home stretch’. The finish line; the holidays, are within our grasp and we just cant wait to get there.
And yet, I have lost count of the number of times that I have spoken to people, at the end of the holidays and they tell me they feel more exhausted than when they began. Why is this? When we have been looking forward to that time of rest with such anticipation – why do we not feel rested or refreshed?
My personal take? I think it is because we have bought into the idea that being busy is the same as being successful. And to be quite honest; this is a real load of nonsense. I can be busy from the moment I wake to the moment I fall asleep but it doesn’t mean that what I did was actually productive, it doesn’t mean I made any inroads towards my goals – it just means I was busy.
And so the dilemma that follows when we buy in to the idea that busy is good, and when we wear our busy status like some kind of badge of honour, is that if we believe that being busy is an accurate marker of being successful, then it means that by default we fall in to the indirect belief that not being busy means you are failing.
Think about it, how many times have you asked someone how they are doing and their answer is “busy.” Which is funny really because that is not actually answering the question. Busy is not a description of how you are doing. It is a description of what you are doing and how much of it you are doing.
I suspect that if you were to push them for a real answer to your question, if they had to really think about how they are doing – i.e. how are you feeling? – then the answer might be something along the lines of; tired, exhausted, frantic, conflicted or overwhelmed. But that answer doesn’t sound quite as successful, or ‘together’ as the first does it?
And so, we go in to the holidays, into our rest season, and yet we have a mindset that makes it very difficult for us to rest; because we keep subconsciously telling ourselves that we ‘ought’ to be doing something. Sometimes it doesn’t even matter what we are doing – just as long as we feel busy!
So, if you want to really rest this holiday, if you want to make time to refresh yourself and recharge your batteries, here are a few pointers that can help you do just that.
1. The Who?
Who are the people that you feel really and truly comfortable and rested with? The friends and family that it is easy and carefree to spend time with and when you leave their company you feel relaxed and happy. If you are going to spend time with people in the holidays – these are the people you should look to spend it with. Time spent with these people will refresh you and ‘fill’ you. You do not need to spend time with lots of people – sometimes quiet, alone time is the very thing we need the most and you should give yourself permission to take that. I am by nature an extrovert and I feel energised when I spend time with people, but over the years as my life has got more demanding – particularly relational demands – I have found that taking a day and a night away on my own does wonders for my internal batteries (three young children require a lot of relational energy!) and I return home feeling rested and ready for action. In your holiday season it is ok to carve out time on your own, and it is also ok to seek only to spend time with the people who you really feel rested and refreshed by.
2. The What?
What are the activities that you do that make you feel rested and refreshed? It might be reading a book, surfing, gardening, napping, lying on a sun lounger with a G&T, painting, playing board games with your kids – whatever they are – choose to spend your holiday time doing those things. These are the things that will refresh you. When we spend time doing things that we ‘ought’ to be doing it can leave us feeling drained. We spend all our mental energy focusing on things that are hard work to us, they do not come easy and they do not uplift us. So, when we spend time doing the things that we enjoy it feels easy and it is a lovely, refreshing break from the normal schedule of life. In your holiday season it is important to step completely aside from the normal and often repetitive routines and tasks (they will all still be there after the holidays!) and instead be intentional about doing the things that make you feel refreshed.
3. The When?
Having just said that it is important to step aside from the routine, I now want to say something that may sound a bit contradictory – use a schedule! This may sound completely un-holiday helpful, but it could be the very thing that helps you make your good intention to rest a reality.
Hopefully you will now be approaching the holiday season with some clarity as to what you are going to put into your schedule, but sometimes we can then end up doing so many things (they are the right’ things and with the ‘right’ people as outlined in point 1 and 2) that we are then back to being busy!! Each of us requires different amounts of ‘active’ vs ‘inactive’ time and you need to be honest with what works for you. For example, only doing activities in the morning and having the afternoons at home and to yourself might work for you. Perhaps doing one day out and one day home. Or perhaps spending one day on your own and the next two with friends. Or it may look completely different! The thing that is important is that there are ‘empty’ spaces in that schedule. Do not fill every single moment of each day with things. Instead, write the word ‘nothing’ on certain days and at certain times and do exactly that. Set aside time to have no external pressures, but just to let your body and your mind rest, relax and recharge itself. When you are continually stimulated by external things – people, TV, gadgets, books, music etc you never allow your brain to go into ‘idle’ mode which it so desperately needs to do in order to recharge itself. Your Smartphone turns itself off when it knows it needs a break – so this holiday I hope that you will be smarter than your phone, and switch off; rest, refresh and recharge.