Working Hard at Relaxing

I just got back from a mini vacation near Guerneville. A quaint cabin in the woods, even, complete with a hot tub, a grill, and a murder shed in the backyard. It was easier than I expected to not spend the weekend on my phone, mainly because there was no signal- so I was forced to leave my laptop be, not write frantically on the various topics I have lined up in my ratty notebook. But I found myself glancing at my email, often torn between wanting to soak in the tub or play games and wanting to use the peaceful time to crank out half-written articles.

It's not just this weekend- I find that vacations stress me out. Like, work is stressful, but I feel productive and I know where I stand, I accomplish things, and I enjoy my job. Vacations, though, involve this feeling of needing to make it "worthwhile", as rather than making money I'm spending it. So when I go to a new place, I feel the need to find all the fun things to do in that area, and systematically do them, ticking each one off some imaginary list. I also pressure myself to take photos so that when I later write about my vacation (which of course I will do) I'll have something to post. A new area is often inspiration for a small photo shoot, too, for social media purposes. It's hard to turn off the marketing brain.

Even with some stress-relieving measures in place, I still have a hard time letting my franticness go, allowing myself to move at a slower pace. I think this can be an issue for people dealing with anxiety issues generally, as we have a tendency to never chill out, and thus burn out faster. I mean, I'm a freelancer, which is both a benefit and a curse- I don't require permission to take time off, but I also don't get paid for it. Thing is, neither do most Americans, unlike every other developed country in the world.

I've found it useful to set myself ground rules so my vacations work like a vacation, while also catering a bit to my neurosis. Setting myself only a certain amount of time to sit in front of a screen gives me a chance to see if i'm actually going to get anything done, and I can answer anything particularly important. I find a timer, or a playlist, helps me not get lost on the internet instead of enjoying my time off. I also like to leave the house/hotel for small adventures, especially ones that involve wandering around exploring rather than a list of sights to see. I try to take a few smaller vacations a year versus one long one, so I can play catchup on work more easily. Finally I've learned to let people I'm working closely with know I'll be away, so I can feel ok with marking work emails as priorities to look at... when I get back.

All of this is echoed in this article on making the most out of your vacation, which is pretty good. The one issue I have with it is the assumption you work a regular 9-5 job, which most of the people I know don't do, so the advice may not entirely fit. I'll definitely add that when vacations aren't doable, little at-home getaways (a massage, a hot tub, a hot bath with some tea and a good book, etc) can make a big difference between wanting to rip your hair out and actually having a moment to breathe.

Self care doesn't come easy, especially when vacations feel like escapism. I'm still learning that it's ok to opt out of reading tweets and Facebook posts, that there's always more things to be upset about and it's ok to take a break for a while. I found this pdf on self care and activist burnout helpful in identifying my own feelings, and maybe it'll help you too. Sometimes just having a sleepover at a friend's house can be the vacation and change of scene you need to recenter yourself- I know having the occasional jaunt down to Santa Cruz has been enough to help me focus on my work and activism. Still, too long away and I begin to feel guilty, wanting to get back to work. I'm not entirely sure if it's just because I like my job, or because I have been taught to feel bad for not working hard.

One day I'll learn how to take a vacation that's not a working vacation!

What prevents you from self care? What obstacles have you found when trying to take a vacation? Have you overcome them? What steps do you take?

Categories: activism, advice, capitalism, personal, self care, support, the stupid States, travel

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