Confessions: It's Really Hard for Me to Take a Day Off

Ay, the things you don’t even realize about yourself!

Ay, the things you don’t even realize about yourself!

Dear Sarah,

Back in the day when Claudia and I discussed topics for future blog posts, I planned to write about how important it is to truly enjoy your days off; how we must grant ourselves ‘free days’ to break our routines and allow ourselves to rejuvenate. Logically, I know this is necessary as we are not machines and we need some self-care to keep ourselves healthy and sane. However, the month I’ve taken to reflect on this topic has led me to one overarching conclusion… I never take a day off!

And, of course, my initial reaction to this realization was a rather mechanical “Crap, then how am I gonna write my article!?” Thankfully, though, once I was able to get past that immediate response I’ve started to process this reality more and take stock of what it is I’ve been doing and why. More than anything, I typically spend time on the weekends working on this blog and I don’t really consider that work as it’s something I love to do. However, the reality is that it still comes laden with deadlines and expectations, which is inherently in opposition to the idea of ‘taking a day off.’ Additionally, even when I AM doing the things I consider to be relaxing and rejuvenating (i.e. journaling, watching TV, coloring) I don’t allow my mind to rest because it’s always on the next thing, questioning how much time I haven’t ‘made the most of.’

As you might imagine, it’s far easy to take time off when I literally take off to somewhere new.

As you might imagine, it’s far easy to take time off when I literally take off to somewhere new.

The Traveling Situation

I’ve given a lot of thought to why it is that it’s so hard for me to take a day off—something I didn’t realize was happening, mind you. It may sound strange that I didn’t realize this, but what I know now is that truly taking time off (for your mind, body, AND soul) is less about what that looks like from the outside and more about what’s going on on the inside. An onlooker may see that I do a lot of ‘relaxing’ activities and take a lot of ‘me-time’ on the weekend. However, I know what my mind is doing during that time and it is far from the peaceful mindset I want to have!

Thus, I’ve considered when it is in the last year that I actually HAVE taken time completely free of work, to-do lists, expectations, and ‘should’s. And in doing so I’ve realized that the deciding factor for me is whether I’m home or not. The only times I’ve been able to avoid the above mentioned mental battle lately have been when we’re traveling!

A change of scenario always helps you break the cycle, but I feel it’s even more simplistic than that. Physically removed from my computer, household chores, and community I finally let my guard down, allow my mind to rest, and just breathe. I sleep in until I want to, eat out as often as desired, and do as much (or as little) as I feel like. Most importantly though, I stop feeling guilty about the tasks I’m not getting done! Quite frankly, out of sight means out of mind in this situation.

Even though I have such peaceful places near my home, I often don’t grant myself the peace of mind to enjoy them.

Even though I have such peaceful places near my home, I often don’t grant myself the peace of mind to enjoy them.

The At-Home Situation

I find it much harder to attain this light feeling and peaceful mentality when I’m at home. Because it’s always possible to throw in a load of laundry, to straighten up the kitchen, to prepare a meal, to catch up on email correspondence, etc, I therefore do those things I feel I ‘should’ do. The list of small tasks I let slip through the cracks during the week is endless and, when faced with a ‘free day’ at home, it’s hard not to feel the pressure to check them off.

My logical mind constantly wants to ‘make the most’ of this free time by accomplishing what I’m not able to accomplish during the week...only then my weekends can end up being just as jam-packed, sometimes more! As I try to do all my tasks at a time in which I also feel like I should be relaxing and socializing, I run out of time to rest (or at least stress about ‘how little time I have’ until I truly do have only a little time left before Monday). What’s worse is that this makes the fun stuff like seeing friends or watching my favorite shows feel like something on a checklist among all the other ‘to-do’ items and thus they don’t feel relaxing.

Why not choose to feel this peaceful at home?

Why not choose to feel this peaceful at home?

What I want

I want to be able to find peace during at-home weekend, too. It truly IS okay to take a day in which the only objective is to relax, to read, to write, to wander through nature, or to binge on Netflix. There does not need to be a hierarchy of activities either! Choosing to veg out on the couch from time to time would not make me lazy; it would simply make me human. We all need time to cargar las pilas, or ‘charge our batteries,’ as they say here in Spain.

When we have a day off we need to covet it and make the most of it, but not in the way my mind has been telling me lately! If a friend told me she was setting these unrealistic expectations for herself and getting upset in the process, I would quickly encourage her to make a change. I would remind her of the importance of taking care of herself and giving herself the time she needs to recharge. If I would have that compassion for someone I love, I most certainly deserve to have it for myself as well!

I’ve realized I have a lot of subconscious stories about how hard I need to be working and how much I need to hustle to prove to the world that I’m successful and that my life here in Spain is ‘real,’ not just a vacation. I also have this nagging feeling that ‘everyone else’ is able to accomplish what they need to in a regular work week and my inability to do EVERYTHING I want to do between Monday and Friday means I have to catch up on the weekends. However, I’m working on being more understanding and kinder to myself. Who knows what other people’s schedules look like or whether they’re really able to accomplish so much more than me...but more importantly, who the hell cares if they do!?

Will you help me set aside guilt-free time off?

Will you help me set aside guilt-free time off?

What I’m going to do about it

I’ve only got my own life to live. And thriving in my life means recognizing what it is I need, whether than aligns with what others need or not. Right now, I’m finally starting to see that my days off REALLY need to be days off. I’ve realized it’s the case but now I have to accept it and make changes. If you also struggle with this, I invite you to join me in a challenge....

I’m not ready to commit completely to no-work, no-expectations Saturdays and Sundays yet because gradual changes work better for me than drastic ones. Still, I do want to make moves. Next month there are five weekends and I’m committing to making three of them TRULY days off. I’m not going to put a lot of rules on this (because that feels like I’d just be putting new expectations in place) but I am going to be more mindful of what I agree to do at those times. I’m going to avoid needing to write articles at the last minute. I’m going to avoid household chores.

When I’m going away for the weekend, I manage to prioritize those things earlier in the week so that I can be carefree on the weekend so I know this is fully possible. I deserve to take time off and rest, whether I’m at home or traveling. And if I find it’s just not working to be home and do this, then I guess I’ll have to travel or plan day trips more! There’s no right or wrong way to achieve this; the important thing is that I give myself (and my mind!) the time off. This will certainly involve a mindset shift for me, but I know the mindset I have currently is not serving me so it’s time to let it go.

I will keep you posted on my experience and would much appreciate any encouragement or advice you have along the way. Are you in need of a similar change? Please reach out if you’re looking to take more time off for your mental and emotional health too; I’d love to support each other!

Sincerely,
Dani