Recently, I came across an old audio training from my coach on "busy-ness".
Most of the women I know live in a perpetual state of busyness, taking care of tasks and managing home, work and everything in between.
Somehow we have come to equate busy-ness with productivity. We are constantly "doing" and leave very little time for "being".
And when we do allow ourselves a bit of time to rest and relax it's not without a heaping dose of guilt as we think about all of the things we should be doing.
As I listened to the training, she mentioned the term "workcation".
She went on to define this term as the insidious tendency to avoid unplugging from work by checking email and responding to messages while out of the office on vacation.
I remembered how this used to be a common habit for me to open up the laptop or smart phone and check email in the evenings after dinner while finishing patient charts...and on the weekends...and at my son's soccer game. How else could you possibly keep up with everything that needs to get done?
And although it might be nice to take a break from email, the thought of the avalanche that would occur on returning to work made it seem like an impossibility.
At the time, it made me wonder how common this phenomenon really was. That summer, I posted a question on Facebook to see how many people check email on vacation, especially those of us who work in medicine. The vast majority of professionals reported that they check and respond to email on vacation.
This had been my habit too up until 2013. That was the year I attended my first silent meditation retreat. It required completely disconnecting from our outer focus on the external world to allow time and space to tune in to our inner world - the world of thoughts and emotions.
There was no cell phone, tablets, or TVs. No reading or writing either.
I was terrified.
For the first 24 hours I worried about how many emails were being deposited into my inbox. I noticed how much I wanted things to be different than the way they were - it's too cold, too wet, too much sitting, bland food - there was nothing to distract me from being with...well, me. I hadn't allowed myself much time to simply be with myself.
But a funny thing happened around the third day. I realized that I am sometimes busy and plugged in...even when I don't need to be...to avoid that inner world of swirling thoughts and uncomfortable feelings on a deep soul level.
The reality that my relationship was in trouble. The denial that my son's poor grades were not from a lack of effort, but rather from untreated anxiety and depression. And the acknowledgment of the sinking feeling I had that I was slowly killing myself by putting everyone's needs ahead of my own...a convenient excuse to not take care of myself.
It was a very tough, emotional weekend. And it was exactly the first step I needed to take to wake up to my life. The life that was right here now. Not the way it used to be. And not the way I wish it was. The awareness I gained during that extended weekend was invaluable. Being in a community of diverse women, in a safe environment, with a skilled facilitator allowed me to get crystal clear on what I didn't want, by really appreciating what wasn't working for me.
It takes courage to be in touch with the degree to which your inner world (your heart's desires, what matters most) is aligned with your external world (if family is most important, how much quality time do you make to spend with them?).
It can be painful to realize that work has taken over your life.
And yet there is freedom in remembering that you have a choice about how to live your life.
Now, I make it an annual practice to unplug by attending a silent meditation retreat. But, you don't have to jump in the deep end of the pool all at once. Dip your toe in the water by exploring one or more of the following practices:
So with summer fast approaching, will you give yourself permission to unplug and disconnect on vacation? What about in daily life? I'd love to hear your thoughts.
Please leave a comment below and let me know if you give unplugging a thumbs up or thumbs down and whether you explored one of the suggestions above or one of your own creation.
Uplifting Women in Medicine