When I went to my workout tonight, I saw a woman who hadn’t been there for a few days. She was very tan, so I asked where she’d been. She had just recently returned from Costa Rica. She reported that her vacation was wonderful – 10 days with her husband and a set of friends, completely unplugged from the rest of the world.
And she was completely stressed.
She told me how her return to work that day had been totally overwhelming. She didn’t know where to start with the incredible quantity of emails, or with all of the work that had piled up and was waiting for her. She said that she almost wishes now that she had been able to access some of it while she was away to make the return less difficult.
Rather than being blissfully calm after a great vacation, rather than riding a “vacation high”, she came crashing down to reality. I knew exactly how she felt and offered her my sympathies.
Such is the double-edged sword for modern day Real Women. We work so hard and plan and save to get away for much-needed vacations. We are told that the only way to really relax is to take several days off and disconnect. And that part is true. We are so wound up that it can take several days to finally let go and slow down, to stop worrying and thinking about whatever “reality” we are escaping for a bit.
If we are lucky, we truly do have wonderful vacations while they last. The bad news is that we dread the return. And literally within hours of re-entry, that relaxation we tried so hard to achieve has disappeared and we begin to feel even more stressed than before we left.
I think there are a few reasons for this. In this current economy, many of us are working for companies who have cut back to the bare minimum number of employees to get the work done – so there is no back-up personnel to handle our work while we are gone. Sure, there may be someone available to put out fires, and take messages. But our responsibilities and duties just pile up and wait for our return, and then we have to somehow play catch-up while at the same time getting back into the normal pace and routine. Related to this is the fact that we Real Women carry around a tremendous amount of “stuff” every day. When we step away from that “stuff”, it doesn’t just go away as if David Copperfield has waved his magic arms in our direction.
Coming back and facing post-vacation reality can be downright anxiety-inducing and terrifying. That may sound dramatic, but anyone who has experienced R.S. (Return Stress) knows what I mean. And it really is a shame. It is too bad it has to be this way – sadly, it can make us wonder if getting away is even worth it. So to try to avoid R.S., we attempt to take preventative steps. We start cutting back on the number of days we’ll be gone. We avoid unplugging, instead checking messages and emails while on vacation to at least cut back on the quantity needing attention. And we work three times harder before we even leave, when we are already tired and in need of a break, to try to get things as cleared up as possible before we go.
Does it seem fair? No. Does it allow us to let go easily? No. But should we still take vacations when possible? Of course. We all need breaks, we all need to step away, we all need to breathe, and we all need to spend some time doing something else. We need to connect with people outside our work zones. We need to feel that rest and relaxation, even if it is short-lived.
We have to get out and experience life beyond our day-to-day challenges and responsibilities. We need to bank those amazing experiences we have so even during those stressful return days, we’ll have good memories and great photos to remind us of how awesome it was. And if it wasn’t for our jobs, we wouldn’t have been able to afford to get away in the first place.
One of my favorite adages is this: No one on their deathbed ever said “I wish I had spent more time at the office.” Yes, the return will probably be ugly. But the value in the time away is immeasurable. And remember – you’ve always got other sympathetic Real Women who will welcome you back, who missed you, and will be able to commiserate with you about your re-entry.