When You Can't Take a Day Off-Even When You're Off

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    There are many benefits to taking a break from work, but you must take the time-- mentally as well as physically. A multitude of reasons might result in an inability to take time off or an unwillingness to disengage from email and social media which might defeat the benefits of the mental break.

    When You Can't Take a Day Off-Even When You're Off

    We might look forward to a vacation for weeks, months, or maybe all year, only to discover that once it arrives we still can't stop thinking about, or completing, work. That tropical destination hasn't eroded the layers of stress because your mind is still in work mode. The conveniences of technology and the ability to get in touch with anyone, almost anywhere, are inconvenient when you're trying to take time off from work.

    Fear of Missing Out

    We all have our personal reasons for being unable to stop ourselves from checking work email, office voicemail, taking paperwork home, or scanning social media while we're off work. Often this only ends up raising our level of anxiety, stress or elicits guilt which is counterproductive to the relaxation we're seeking.

    We usually know from experience how we might respond to time off from work. Whether we're worried we'll miss an important call or email, or we feel guilty that our peers are short staffed. Don't create impossible expectations for yourself by imagining that everything will be different this time and you'll be able to easily eradicate thoughts of work or your endless task list. Not unless you plan and prepare differently to counteract your impulse to allow work to invade your thoughts.

    When You Can't Turn Off

    If you work in management, freelance work, or many other positions, often taking time off requires working twice as hard before you're off and then making up for the time when you return. This pace can make it hard to completely turn your thoughts away from work.

    If you're reluctant to disengage because you know you'll have to make up for it when you return, decide what works for you to manage your time off most effectively. Perhaps planning to allow for a little bit of time to check in each day might allow you to worry less about what you're missing.

    • Checking work email and voicemail - Set limits on how often you'll check these and for how long but realize if you engage, it might lead to coworkers expecting a quick response
    • Tell people ahead of time that you'll be off and details of when you will respond to requests - Verbally, in a message on your voicemail and an email response, so they know how to work around your schedule and who to contact
    • Designate an emergency person at work - Let them know how to reach you if it's necessary so you aren't worried that they can't contact you in a crisis
    • Decide what must be done, and what can wait - Prioritize your tasks since most may be waiting when you return
    • Organize your Gmail by sender or subject - To help reduce the worry of missing what needs to be addressed quickly when you return

    Make the Most of Your Time

    Often working in healthcare means working extra hours, or not being able to take a vacation when you'd like to. This doesn't mean that you don't still need time off to rest and recharge mentally and physically. What this does mean is that it's even more important to try to disengage from work stressors during this time.

    Perhaps you can take a short break, such as a nap, a half a day, an extra day, or a long weekend. Guard the downtime you have so you can make the most of it. Sometimes even a little break can go a long way.

    • Plan for what you like to do -There are many expectations people have for what you should do on vacation, but consider what you like to do, even if that means doing absolutely nothing
    • If you can't get the vacation time you want--plan a short break or a staycation to do something you've been looking forward to or that you haven't had time for
    • Check in with your local tourist bureau -- Perhaps you can find a closer destination by considering local attractions to avoid losing driving time
    • You need time off now and your vacation is weeks away --Commit to tuning out for an evening from work and email and do something to relax
    • When you never clock out -Set your phone to turn off at a certain time, or to screen to allow certain numbers through so you can rest
    • If it's an expectation-If you're frustrated that your organization promotes maintaining ongoing availability even when you're off, consider if this is the right job for you

    Tune into Yourself

    Most of us realize that a better work and life balance can make us more productive and maybe a little more creative, the challenge is finding the time and motivation to create that balance.
    Last edit by tnbutterfly on Jul 10
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    4 Comments

  3. by   DallasRN
    Kind of along these lines, a friend and I were talking last night...we're both applying for the same management position. Discussed how great it would be to be able to job share. Could share call responsibility. Could cover when one was sick or on vacation. She's an excellent admin type - reports and such - while I'm better at the "people" stuff (staff, visitors, marketing types of things). We make a great "whole". Job sharing would allow you to really get away while having confidence things would be handled in your absence. Would probably increase longevity in many positions, too. Less burn-out.
  4. by   Medic/Nurse
    IF you think you think YOU are ESSENTIAL to the job, check back a week after you were to suffer a career ending disabling injury or (gasp, I don't mean this to go morbid & dark) your funeral (absurd, I know, but think about the premise here) - I promise the JOB moves on.

    The wheels keep spinning. Patients will still be seen. Lives will still be saved. The blades will spin. The fires will be put out. Staffing will be done. Whatever it is, it will still happen. Someone will step up and be in "YOUR" role.

    Once this little "jewel of wisdom" sinks in - go enjoy your day(s) off. Take that vacation - you, have freaking earned it. When you work - work hard. But, when you are not at work, well - you know.

    Be where you are. That is the lesson here.

    BE WHERE YOU ARE.

    No matter where you are - be present. Fully.


  5. by   Daisy4RN
    Quote from DallasRN
    Kind of along these lines, a friend and I were talking last night...we're both applying for the same management position. Discussed how great it would be to be able to job share. Could share call responsibility. Could cover when one was sick or on vacation. She's an excellent admin type - reports and such - while I'm better at the "people" stuff (staff, visitors, marketing types of things). We make a great "whole". Job sharing would allow you to really get away while having confidence things would be handled in your absence. Would probably increase longevity in many positions, too. Less burn-out.
    Sounds like a great idea, I hope it works out for you both!!
  6. by   SisterofMary
    Quote from Medic/Nurse
    Someone will step up and be in "YOUR" role.
    :
    Sad but true. Reminds me of this quote:

    "When asked "What thing about humanity surprises you the most?", the Dalai Lama answered:

    "Man.... Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived."

    ~ Dalai Lama XIV

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