I’m guessing I’m not alone in feeling some amount of vacation anxiety.
After all, our culture places little value on taking time away from work, otherwise we would have a better standard than two weeks of paid leave in a year.
For the past two weeks I was away with my little girls in Florida to spend time with my parents. We had a wonderful trip. I loved almost every minute of it, with the exception of those moments when I questioned whether I was making a terrible business decision by disappearing for two entire weeks. Hence the vacation anxiety.
So often I heard that annoying little voice in the back of my mind telling me “this is wrong! you should be working!”
Ironically, I made the decision to take two weeks off in January, because for the past 11 years, they’ve been the slowest two weeks of the year and the lack of business in the past has caused me a lot of anxiety.
Oh the voices in our heads are such jerks sometimes!
The thing is, that voice, the one telling me I should be doing this or that, often carries little Truth. So how do you shut those thoughts down and bypass those feelings of fear or anxiety which are the inevitable byproduct of “should“?
Here’s the bad news: you can’t. Those voices are pervasive and persistent. But it doesn’t mean you have to believe them either.
You have two fundamental responses to mentally challenging and emotionally painful situations:
- Do Nothing. This the process of bringing awareness to the story you are telling yourself, acknowledging whatever emotions and feelings arise, and allowing yourself to sit with the pain.
- Do Something. Through various behaviors you can avoid, numb and mask the pain. Avoidance and numbing will ultimately bury the problem somewhere in the body where it will fester and eventually manifest itself as physical, emotional, or mental disease.
So often we are trying to fix or mask our current reality. We are compelled to move away from emotional pain, to move out of the discomfort of the moment, to take action which will move us away from stories of our mind.
I found it very hard to sit with the thought and feeling that I should not have taken so much time off. My compulsion was to avoid the anxiety.
And while you might think, so what? What’s the harm in avoiding emotional and mental pain?
The truth is that pain will eventually manifest itself as physical disease.
You know my position: disease is not inevitable, you possess all the power necessary to experience a healthy body, mind and spirit.
My work right now is focused on Do Nothing, because ultimately, I just want a life of peace, love, and vibrant health.
Alas, being the vulnerable human I am, here are some behaviors I resorted to when Do Nothing was too hard. (Do Nothing ain’t easy!)
- running, biking, swimming — exercise and play is my favorite form of distraction. It gets me into my body and out of my head. Of course exercise is healthy, but some of us use it as a means of escape, so just be aware.
- the internet/social media/shopping — the ultimate worm-hole of distraction. Whether you are shopping on Amazon or watching funny cat videos, you are avoiding the present.
- alcohol — it’s 5 o’clock somewhere, right?
- food–everyone loves a few extra hits of serotonin when life is uncomfortable. This is why there is an entire category of comfort foods. Seek pleasure, avoid pain.
I share with you my experience and observations because anxiety (though not necessarily vacation anxiety) is the most common condition I treat.
And while I am an expert at treating it through acupuncture, I’m only beginning to learn how to treat it using the power of mindfulness and self awareness.
If you have ever experienced vacation anxiety, hit reply and tell me about it. I would love to hear from you.