Do you feel exhausted all of the time? Do you feel you are always on the go, always having some commitment either work, family or personal? When is the last time you scheduled time for you to relax and take care of yourself? Time for you to BE? I bet it’s been quite awhile. I was at that point about two years. My job is exciting, always challenging and always busy. But after several bouts of exhaustion, pneumonia and bronchitis I knew I needed to make a change. I needed to take time for me. I was struggling with what direction I wanted to take my career and needed to step back and evaluate what is most important to me and how I go about doing those things. So last May I did my first sabbatical. I spent three weeks at a cottage on a lake about three hours from my home. And it was the best thing I have ever done.
- Rest – This was probably my top priority going into my sabbatical. I was exhausted. I had been burning the candle at both ends for months. I had very little left in my tank….running on empty was a way of life that desperately needed to change. At the cottage I went to bed when I was tired and got up when my body was ready. I took naps in the sun in the afternoon. The first 10 days or so I was sleeping at least 12 hours a day. My body needed the rest and I let myself just BE. No schedule, no appointments. And it was delicious.
- Recharge – I needed to feed my body, my mind and my soul. All three were in desperate need of some help. I had taken along a very large selection of books to read. Everything from a trashy romance novel to an autobiography to self-help/leadership books. So I read daily. Out on the lounge chair in the sunshine. Or by the lake watching the boats go by. And I got back to exercising each day. Many mornings I would walk to an old lighthouse about a mile from the cottage. Or I would do an exercise video while the warm breeze would come through the windows. By the second week I was looking forward to my morning walks. The peace and quiet that comes from the water is the best medicine for me. But like anything it takes time to work…..those first few days by myself the quiet was almost unbearable. With all the quiet you are forced to listen to yourself. To hear the quiet, soft voice inside of you. It’s always there but how often do we drown it out with all the noise of our busy lives? I started listening. And writing. One of the most surprising aspects of my sabbatical was how beneficial it was for me to take time in the afternoon to sit and write. In fact, last night I took some time to reread what I wrote during those three weeks as preparation for this years time away. I was able to capture in words the struggles and fears I was dealing with and can see how my perception changed over those three weeks.
- Reconnect – One of the blessings for me was to invite a few others to join me during different parts of my time away. As various friends and family each joined me for a few days I was able to watch them have the same experience that I was having there. I was able to see their faces relax, the tensions and stress of life slip away. Many wonderful, heartfelt conversations happened. What a wonderful blessing to have no interruptions and to be able to get into these deep conversations and then to also be able to laugh at the craziest of things. To just be with each other.
- Refocus – I spent a great deal of time primarily the last week working of what my new focus was going to be when I returned home. Not only was I trying to figure how what role I wanted for work, I wanted to make sure that my new found habits, attitude (we refer to it as my “zen”) and rested body would be able to continue once I returned back to reality! I needed to plan how to do my re-entry and keep my “Zen”. I realized once you listen to the soft voice inside of me it really wasn’t that difficult. I liked my job. I just needed to make a few small changes on certain job responsibilities and do more delegating. I reviewed what parts of my job give me the most satisfaction and energy. Those where the areas I needed to focus on. The parts that got me frustrated and drained me of energy were things that I shouldn’t be doing. And if there was someone else who enjoyed doing those same things it was far better for our firm! A Win – Win situation! The other change was to take at least 30-40 minutes each day over the lunch hour to sit outside in the sunshine. Sometimes I would read and other times I would simply sit and relax. I was able to do this through September until it became to cold to sit outside.