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Taking Time Off
photo | Brian Rendel
by
Dr. Jim Guy
on
July 18, 2013
| Stress & Burnout | From the Office |

I recently returned from a two-week vacation to visit extended family in Illinois and Indiana.  The trip included introducing my boys (ages 10 and 8) to Chicago's museums, stores, boat rides, bike trails, and deep-dish pizza.  While I can't say this vacation was relaxing, it was fun and refreshing.  I’m back in the office feeling replenished and ready for work.

As I reflect on the experience, I’m recalling thousands of hours of conversation I’ve had with relief and development professionals over the years.  Perhaps no surprise to you, much of this time was spent with them either anticipating or recalling vacations and paid leave.  It’s an important counterbalance to the pressures of work.  As such, it deserves our attention.

As with everything, when it comes to vacation leave, no one size fits all.  Even for the same person, the kind of vacation most needed may vary from time to time.  For example, during my career, I’ve benefited from each of the following:

  • Brief break: one or two days off – with no particular agenda
  • Working vacation: flexible schedule away from work that includes contact with the office by phone or email –with goal of renewed perspective
  • Complete vacation: unplugged with no contact by phone or email – with goal of refreshment
  • Extended leave: 60 days or more with no work contact, focusing on rest and attention to physical, emotional, and spiritual needs – with goal of restoration

The goal isn’t merely to take time off – it’s to determine what kind of time off will be most beneficial at this time.  Remind well-meaning colleagues, friends, and family that you can best determine the answer to that question.  Given mounting research about the important role of vacation in reducing the onset of compassion fatigue, burnout, and impairment, it’s important to give this as much consideration each year as determining work goals and objectives.

Dr. Sigmund Freud used to say that a successful life held work, love, and play in tension.  On my best day, fun doesn’t get the attention it deserves.  But, I am finding that this is becoming increasingly important for energizing my work and relationships.  So, I’m spending more time planning the vacation I need most at the moment.

Three cheers for paid vacation leave! It offers one useful way to get the balance right.

What works for you?

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