The Key to Switching Off… Can Be Elusive

You are on a vacation with nary a care, or so you would assume, so why can’t you relax?

"It wasn’t that I hadn’t switched off. It was that I still felt exhausted and we were five days into doing hardly anything." Photo courtesy: Michelle Nebbs
"It wasn’t that I hadn’t switched off. It was that I still felt exhausted and we were five days into doing hardly anything." Photo courtesy: Michelle Nebbs

“Have you been able to switch off?” She asked me. We’re on a one week holiday at a lovely beach. We had only met that day. Our kids had become friends at the beach during the day, and they were now happily ruining the local pool table in a beach shack, acting like they knew how to play the game.

I kept one eye on them as I answered. “Sure!” I had said. “I never have problems switching off.” (I had almost scoffed!)

But it is true. I rarely have issues with bifurcating work and personal activities. I have never been very good at blending the two. My best friends rarely work in the same industry, let alone the same company. And I’m clearly not young enough to think that I’d like all my work colleagues to see my Facebook posts (let’s face it, the fact I’m talking FB instead of Insta kinda gives away my age bracket).

Also, I’m one of those people that keeps two phones. My husband always gives me a hard time about it. But… it means I can keep my work and personal stuff separate—I don’t get distracted by work e-mails when I’m checking social media and vice versa.

If we are lucky enough to get organised sufficiently to have a date night I only take my personal phone. When I’m in work meetings I only have work devices. If there is a family emergency, the two or three people who need to get a hold of me know how.  So keeping work and personal separate is not a big challenge for me. 

But I couldn’t stop thinking about that question. For the next three days it bugged me.

It wasn’t that I hadn’t switched off. It was that I still felt exhausted and we were five days into doing hardly anything.

And I was running out of time. We were leaving in two days! I was not relaxing about not relaxing. It was ridiculous.

When do you know you are truly rested?

I’m talking truly completely rested. Not just a good night’s sleep but really refreshed, recharged and ready for anything?

What does it take to feel like that? For some people they talk of going hiking in the mountains, or communing with nature. Some of my colleagues have been courageous enough to go off and do those retreat thingies—you know the kind, where you sit in a sparse room and don’t talk to anyone for five days or so.

That sounds like my idea of living hell. It’s obviously different for different people. Otherwise there would a recipe for it. Or a course on Udemy. Or this blog would be called ‘the only way to re-energise’.

I’ve heard of people singing the praises of time out with family—let’s come back to that another time—or becoming more centred through meditation. I definitely find that meditation as a practise is something that I’m getting better at, and it undoubtedly helps me with sleep at home and patience at work, but that is a tool I use for coping with the general hustle bustle not something that renews me. Yet.

Finding what works for you

With just over a day left to find my relaxation nirvana I panicked and called my friend back in Australia. “How am I ever truly going to unwind and get refreshed enough to face what I know will be a tough couple of months at work!?” I howled down the line. “Sounds like you need another girl’s weekend!” She joked back at me.

I chuckled thinking about our last weekend like that many moons ago. But realised she was right—the times I truly rejuvenate aren’t my massages, or my date nights with my wonderful man, or even my lovely beach holidays with my crazy family of men (big and small). And by the way, I’m incredibly grateful for a partner and a job that enables me to do those things.

The times I truly re-energise are when I’m surrounded by like-minded women and can natter about food, wine, sex, love, life, friendship, spouses, kids, siblings, ageing parents, ageing selves, and that’s just in the first few hours. Those girls’ weekends are my equivalent of chicken soup for the soul. I’m booking my next one right now!

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