Holiday times – Summer, Easter, even Christmas, we’re inclined to ask others what they’re up to and hear, or be asked ourselves and reply with: ‘I’m looking forward to some downtime and rest’. I’m having a week away myself just now, and heard myself say it a few days before leaving. The thing is, whilst time away is important and different from routine, it’s not always the best for downtime and rest.
Our diaries might be unscheduled but our minds aren’t…automatically
Pop your out of office on, let the important people know you won’t be around, know that you don’t need to respond to calls or instigate meetings or chats and get your reading/podcasts loaded up for absorption when you’re switched off.
Yet, with all that time and expanse in front of you, you don’t switch off. Something stops your reading, listening, not checking social media and emails and thinking about home. That something?
For, whilst you’ve taken yourself away from your daily routine (be it work, home life or similar), you’ve taken your busy little mind along with you and no-one told it that it didn’t have to continue at the speed it’s been travelling for some time now.
Indeed, with space and freedom, your mind runs wild. It processes and thinks and analyses, precisely because it has no daily distraction to stop it doing so.
In fact, your poor mind is even judging the level of relaxation you’re in:
‘I think I’m relaxed right now, yes this is relaxing’
‘I think this is the most relaxed I could be’
‘this is so much more/less relaxing than Portugal last year’
and yes, even
‘I think my break looks better than Sarah’s on Instagram’
Your mind is judging all the way, all the time. It’s learnt to do so, to stay aware of the stimuli it needs to attend to in normal life. So it’s no wonder it takes more than just a change of location and routine to adjust the way your mind continues to process. It takes awareness and it’s own little bit of work dedicated to helping it change it’s pace.
So, how to do that?
1. Before your break…
The type of holiday or break you’re having will determine whether your mind is simply transferring business into busy-ness elsewhere or focusing on other things.
Ideally, plan ahead – ask yourself (and the family/friends if they count!) what type of holiday, or rest, you need before planning and going on it. Is it really a week by a pool, or more likely walking in the hills, or a villa with friends or just time at home, with work out the way?
Budget and time matters, of course, but take a look at what you want for your body and mind to get time out, then both will likely thank you more when you’re actually doing it.
2. On your break…
You can’t go from 100% to nothing without expecting a bump.
If you’re on holiday right now, take a moment to acknowledge that your mind needs a little longer to settle than just the car, train or plane journey to arrive. This doesn’t make you ungrateful nor someone who can’t switch off, it’s just the way your mind is wired (right now, or always) and understanding this provides relief rather than impatience at wanting things to be different (see ‘how relaxed I am’ above).
To ease into the change of routine, either take a practice from home that you love and do it on holiday or start a new routine or practice whilst you’re away that you might want to take home with you. Make it something you love the idea of, have loved in the past or are completely scared of trying and treat it like an experiment. It will stimulate you in all sorts of ways that will allow your mind to work differently and focus elsewhere. Don’t put pressure on yourself though – allow a softness into this experiment and see how it pans out as you go.
That’ll take you to at least 50%.
3. When you’re back…
When you’re back from your break or holiday, reflect on the moments that felt easy and like you got what you needed, where you felt really in the moment. What was happening? How did you get there? How can that be replicated – for your next break and, even better, back in your daily routine.
Of course there are constraints to making this your norm, but allow yourself to imagine that those moments could be possible in your non-holiday life and think about how you can get the closest to it. Indeed, you can carry out this exercise for any break you’ve ever had.
Our minds want to grasp onto good moments and if we can bring that holiday vibe into our daily routine then all the better for adding joy into our days.
Perhaps then it won’t feel like we need the holiday so much, hey?
Thinking about going gently in your life? My next ‘how to lead a gentle life’ course runs again in October. Find out more here.
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