Last week I took a week of annual leave. I had so much planned – I was going to finish the third draft of my book, complete some study modules I’ve been putting off, maybe take a trip to Ireland to see my parents or even nip over to Iceland to see the Northern Lights. This was my plan.
I did none of it. Instead I slept a lot, walked my dog, sat under a lot of trees, spent time with my husband and didn’t think about work once. That’s the funny thing about making plans, sometimes what you really need is to do nothing and rest, recharge and reset.
Stepping away from the busy week I had planned, stepping away from work, all this gave me a renewed sense of focus and drive and, with a clear head, I was able to set some goals for the coming year. Work has a way of completely absorbing me sometimes and it can be difficult to see the wood for the trees, let alone see the different paths within the wood – I can become very single-minded about the path I’m currently on and while that focus is fantastic, it can be limiting at times. I hadn’t realised quite how exhausted I was until I found myself napping every afternoon, something I’ve never done in my life. I managed to get a full eight hours sleep every night and while I didn’t achieve anything I’d planned to do, I found myself doing a whole lot more that I had never thought of.
I rejoined the gym after five years and discovered how much I missed the energy burn and sense of achievement it gives me. I, don’t laugh, took up yoga after decades of just about everyone I know telling me I ought to. And yes, it’s everything I was told it would be and more and I feel daft for not having listened sooner. Instead of working on my own book I read a half-dozen or so books by other writers; books on creativity, inspirational books and a lot of novels by Zadie Smith. I listened to a lot of opera, something I haven’t done in twenty years. I watched absolutely no TV and only checked my work phone twice. I lost half a stone. I only logged in to social media nine times in the whole week, instead of nine times an hour. It was a holiday from myself, to myself.
Sometimes we need to take a break from the life we are in just to reconnect with the life we want. I learned that this week by being selfish, by thinking only of what I needed, what my body needed, what my mind needed and what my soul needed. I feel as energised and refreshed as if I had spent the week lying on a beach under a palm tree, or gone on a solitary retreat into the forest.
Oftentimes we get stuck in our own lives, the day to day annoyances, the struggle, the stress and it leaves us feeling drained and exhausted, charging on all cylinders but with nowhere to go. Take some time for you, whether it’s a whole week, or a weekend, or even just an evening. Don’t plan anything (how many of us think “Yes! A night off, I can clean the bedroom or do the laundry!”), don’t fill it with anything other than what you need. Turn your phone off, unplug the TV, just be.