By Jonathan Hart, LPC
I have just returned from a very nice, relaxing vacation. We were quite thoroughly “off the grid”: away from cities, away from crowds, away from cell phone signal, internet, and even electricity. It was refreshing … after about a day and a half of electronics withdrawal.
When I’m not on vacation, I depend a great deal on my phone. All my appointments are stored there in my schedule, along with contact information and a glut of other data that is fairly important. I take a great many phone calls, texts, and e-mails about business and clients. It has become a (bad) habit to give my attention to the thing whenever it blings, dings, beeps, or whistles. When it does not do so for more than an hour or two, I find myself compulsively looking at it to see if I missed something.
Out in the woods, I found myself repeatedly grasping my pocket where my phone usually resides and, finding nothing there, experiencing a brief moment of panic: “Where did I leave it? Did I lose it?” Then I remembered that it was turned off and stowed in the glove box alongside the other useless stuff: the owner’s guide for my truck, 27 maps for places we weren’t, and a stick and a half of year-old gum.
Even on the third day, my wife and I found ourselves in information withdrawal: what was the weather going to be today, and how would that influence our decisions on activities and preparations? We needed to know!! We never did find out, and –gasp– we survived unharmed.
A mentor of mine told me once: “Always, Always, Always take a vacation every year. Make the time.” Especially in the helping professions, but in all walks of life, rest and self-care is critically important. In the military they call it “P.M.”: Preventive Maintenance. It means stopping before things break in order to keep them from breaking. It means taking the truck, gun, or equipment out of use and circulation for a period of time, doing without it, in order to keep it functioning optimally.
Many of us are bad at PM for our hearts and souls. We usually wait until we feel bad or until something in our world “breaks” before we stop to rest. This is a mistake. We run ourselves into the ground and we cease to function well, serving poorly, working poorly, and living poorly.
How long has it been since you went off the grid (whatever that looks like in your world)? How long since you stopped and took care of your heart and mind and soul? Do something that relaxes, refreshes, recharges you. Get out of your routine for a while. You’ll know you are starting to do it when you have those moments where you wonder what has fallen apart that you could have taken care of or prevented. When you get to that point, don’t stop. Take another day.
Or two. It will keep.
Let it go. Go on.