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Have we lost the art of switching off?

Last month I took some long-awaited time off work. 

The weeks leading up to the break were busy. Frantic, in fact. I had to pomodoro my socks off to keep myself on track and get everything done.

Head down, keep focus.

I did it. Finished up. Shut my laptop. Off we went.

I had been SO looking forward to our trip. But three days in, I was still an anxious mess. I’d left my laptop at home, I wasn’t working, what was the problem?

We were in a sweet little cottage, the kids were (more or less) behaving, we were having lovely day trips to beautiful places – Alnwick Gardens, Holy Island, Bamburgh Beach. Why wasn’t I ENJOYING MYSELF X1000. 

It wasn’t til the last day that I started to feel a glimmer of something approaching calm. We met up with my friend Jules for a bit then pottered around Whitley Bay. It was a low key day, we had no real plans, we mooched in a record shop, I found a second-hand Heart LP I’d been hankering after (welcome to my 80s brain), the boys spent their holiday money in the YMCA shop on a Hulk suit and a pair of flip-flops. 

I don’t know if it was the directionlessness of the day, or that day 4 is when you might start to finally unclench on a holiday, but at that point the low hum of existential panic started to quieten down a bit.

As freelancers we are FOREVER talking about how to optimise our work time and productivity. I wonder if sometimes this obsession (unwittingly) spills over into our rest/play time. Like Wile E. Coyote we run off the edge of the cliff and our legs just keep right on spinning.

Our brains are still in top gear, smashing away at where to go today and at what time and what needs to be packed and how long to get there and what will we eat and what time does that place open and am I having fun yet and why not?

We’re on holiday, yes. But it takes a while to stop buzzing *around* time and start properly existing inside it. Fully inhabiting it.

Since we’ve been back I’ve been trying to plan a bit more space in my working day. I’m not sure how realistic it is as a long term strategy – jobs come in, often at the same time, bills need to be paid, etc. But it has helped, it has healed, a bit. I can feel my brain starting to patch itself back together. 

Hopefully next time we go away I won’t be wound so tight it takes a week to unspool myself.

How easy do you find it to switch off on holiday? Do you sometimes come back feeling like you need another break?

What do you think?