My wife and I were discussing vacations this morning and I realized we haven’t been practicing what I preach; and that’s bad, especially for a psychologist. Our last extended vacation of three weeks or more was eight years ago. And for the last five years, we have had a few solo vacations of 5 to 7 days, but little more than three or four days away together.
With all the family losses of the last five years, it’s not surprising we’ve neglected vacations, but neither is it healthy…
I encourage others to take vacations for several reasons, the first one being family mental health. The vacation gives you a chance to step off the treadmill that living in a family often becomes. Left behind are the demands of employment, school, endless household management errands, hobbies, TV and volunteer work.
Going on a family vacation gives all of you opportunity to be together at a deeper level. Some of the stress of vacations comes from fear about what you might find out. A Husband gets to find out that he hasn’t really talked with his wife (or children) for some time. She gets to find out about some of her husband’s dreams of adventure and freedom.
Or you get to find out that you are doing fine. Either way you both gain a clearer picture of the quality of your bond with your spouse and your children. You are better prepared for another year of full-out living. Families that take vacations together function better.
The second reason you need vacations is to regain your perspective as an individual. When you are away from work for a week or more, you begin to see the bigger picture of your life. You may find you love your job so much that you can’t wait to get back to it. Or you may begin to realize you are in the wrong job and need to change. The fear of what you might find out about yourself could be a factor in why you sometimes don’t take a vacation.
You might not even be conscious of your ruminations until your first week back on the job. Twice, upon return to work after a break, I realized that I was ready to change careers. And I did. I wouldn’t be writing this column or running my practice here today, were it not for those life-changing vacations.
Individuals who follow their hearts in their careers take vacations. Those who stick at the job or business without a break are putting themselves at risk of burnout.
I admit I’m still working on this one for myself. It’s so satisfying to blame someone else for how I’m feeling!