Take Time Off Like You Mean It

Take Time Off Like You Mean It

It was a rainy May night in Amsterdam, I’m two nights into my nine-day vacation, and I can’t handle it.

In the middle of the sidewalk, rain coming down on me, I froze. Stress is twitching my eyebrow and tears well up in my eyes. My boyfriend is concerned and asks me to share what’s happening. 

With this attention, the tears move quickly and the truth flows, “I don’t know how to be on vacation!” I exclaim, “I can’t relax!”

Twelve years ago I was so good at working that I froze up when faced with not working, even for nine days. Of course this made it hard for me to enjoy my vacation and, as I know today, the stress built up in my body was a festering ground for illness. 

Maybe you identify as a workaholic or you can identify a healthy sense of pride in how good you are at what you do. It’s needed. You’re needed in the role you play. In any company, the role of each individual is a necessary part of the whole, and how you function can propel the greater organization into success. And hopefully, every part of the whole, each employee benefits from the success through sustaining their jobs, monetary compensation, benefits and a sense of camaraderie. 

There’s a slippery slope that I was skiing, however, in my work-perfectionista days and it’s the one that led me to draw a blank when the command was to relax and enjoy.

In my coaching work, I often see this pattern in my perfectionist-workaholic clients: work hard and, right before vacation, work even harder! The window for self-care goes from small to non-existent and the excuse, “well, I’m going on vacation,” is the bargaining chip. 

Then what happens?

Sometimes it’s the freeze response that I had in Amsterdam. Oftentimes it’s sickness – a cold or a flu. “Why does my cold wait until I’m on vacation to get me?” 

The additional stress of trying to “earn” your time off or to look good, laying out the most orderly “while I’m away” plan with zero room for anyone managing minutia, lowers your immune response, making you more susceptible to illness and not being able to enjoy time off. 

In today’s work-from-home-world, taking off or even turning off, becomes increasingly more complex as work and home life share physical space. 

Whether you’re taking a weekend off or a week, I’ve written these tips to help you enjoy more of your time-off so that your time-on gets the refresh of inspiration and creativity needed to ace the role you play at work. 

1. Practice taking time off each day

Although it may be tempting to move from hitting your phone alarm to thumbing through your notifications, to answering emails and phone calls, I urge you to take back your morning. 

You can set your mind, attitude and day up for ease, peace and flow simply by taking a few minutes to yourself. 

A meditation or mindfulness practice is easiest to do in the morning because your mind is the least cluttered after sleeping. That said, any time you can schedule to take time off – with your phone in airplane mode and absolutely nothing to do except to allow yourself the space to sit, breathe, observe and be – you’ll be training yourself to be more present for life, more aware of change and more adaptable to time-off and time-on.

A helpful breathing practice that Peace Inside Your Workplace shares live on zoom is a deep inhale and exhale pattern through the nose, followed by a short breath-hold. This pattern of active breathing, followed by a pause, helps to soothe anxiety and builds flexibility in the chemoreceptors of the brain, which strengthens our ability to go into stress with a sense of ease and to check stress “at the door” when it’s time to turn off. 

Another helpful exercise for a moment of pause is this square-breathing technique. 

2. Set an intention for your time off and create the space

So you’ve made it to the hour, day, weekend or week off…now what? 

Anything worth doing is worth stopping for. In this “stopping” practice, take as little as one minute to envision the time you’re taking for yourself and how you’d like to feel in this time off. You can imagine the feeling, letting yourself relax in how you’d like to feel. This begins to train you to match this feeling over other feelings of stress, anxiety, worry, resentment, frustration, etc. 

You can take the “stopping” practice a step further by asking yourself any of these questions and either sharing the answer with a companion, friend or family or journaling your responses:

What is my intention for my time off? 

What does it look like when I take this time? What am I doing? What am I not doing?

What am I in control of that can make this time most enjoyable or enriching? 

If there was a single word or phrase to summarize how I’d like to feel during this time, what would it be?

3. Release perfection, have faith in who you are

In a state of striving for a place other than where you’re at right now, you can lose the plot of what you’re up to in the first place. 

If you’re reading this article, you’ve gotten yourself to a place where you’re curious and trying to be your best, healthy and well. You might even be in touch with a part of you that knows that there is great wisdom in the path you’ve chosen, in what interests you and in who you are, just as you are. 

I leave you with this inquiry on the journey: 

What would it be like to know that you are where you need to be and any answers you’re after are waiting for you to give them the time? 

All my best,

Jordana, Co-Founder Peace Inside Your Workplace

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Holistic health and fitness has been a huge part of my life, both from the perspective of accomplishment, as well as healing and overall health and wellbeing. I love seeing the transformation my clients go through and how sharing what I have learned so far in this lifetime makes a positive difference for others. It gives me a sense of purpose and is one of the most rewarding things that I know.

A large part of my holistic health journey started in 2011, when I was dealing with severe health issues, chronic knee and joint pains and an under-functioning thyroid. I had been diagnosed with hypothyroidism, and western doctors told me that I’d have to take a medication every day for the rest of my life because there was no cure.

After years of pushing my body to its limit in the fitness industry, as a body builder and cover model, my body started to take a toll. I wasn’t living a balanced life, even though I thought it was a healthy one. The stress on my body caused an autoimmune disease called vasculitis. I was treated with several different drugs to suppress my immune system. This, in turn, had an effect on both my thyroid and my adrenal glands. I couldn’t function as a normal human being unless I was taking thyroid medication. 

The thyroid is a gland that controls the function of all the organs in the body including your metabolism by releasing hormones. When it doesn’t work properly, it affects your entire body, including your organs, digestion, hormones, energy levels, and overall wellbeing. In a nutshell, I was a mess. Even though it seemed impossible, I had heard that the body has the ability to heal itself and I chose to believe that. My new mission was to figure out how.

I started researching Chinese medicine and what in the western world is called “alternative healing modalities,” even though these practices have been around for several thousand years.

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QiGong is one of 3 healing arts in China, along with acupuncture and herbology. Qi means “life force”. The life force that is in all living beings and in nature all around us. Gong translates to “cultivation”. The full translation of QiGong means “life force cultivation”. It is an ancient moving meditation involving, movement, breath and intention. The purpose of QiGong is to align, build and balance one’s “Qi”, meaning one’s life force.

The belief is that when your Qi is balanced, the body functions at its optimal level and will restore all the cells and functions in the body for healing to occur. The benefits go beyond healing, we can see that in the feats of the Shaolin monks who can do remarkable things with their bodies.

I started seeing Master Zhou once a week for treatment. Without telling him what was wrong with me in the first session, he diagnosed the problem and through his translator told me that my Qi was imbalanced particularly around my Thyroid. I explained that I was on a medication, and Master Zhou told me to take half my medication for the first two weeks, then stop it completely. He invited me to come and learn QiGong with him once a week with the requirement that I practice every day on my own. At that point, I committed myself to his teachings and became his student.

Within 3 months my thyroid normalized itself and I haven’t been on any medication since. Not only did my thyroid recover, but all chronic pains I was dealing with have vanished over the years.

I have been a student of Qigong ever since and I can say, without a doubt, that I can do things physically that would have been impossible in 2011. In 2016 I was blessed to represent the United States and win the martial arts World Championship in the art of Escrima/Arnis; a Martial Art from the Philippines that you see in films such as the Bourne Identity, Deadpool and many other popular action movies.

I feel better today than I can ever remember, both physically, mentally and emotionally. I credit the daily practice of QiGong, holistic nutrition and exercise.

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Mental Health Awareness & Resources

Introduction

More and more people are being diagnosed with Mental Health conditions each and every year. According to the Center for Disease Control & Prevention, about 1 out of 5 adults (ages 18+) reports some kind of mental illness each year1. There are over 200 types of mental illnesses. The American Psychiatric Association provides a full list of these illness here.

The most common mental illnesses2 are:

  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Disruptive Behavior Disorders
  • Depression & Other Mood Disorders
  • Eating Disorders
  • Personality Disorders
  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Schizophrenia Spectrum & Other Psychotic Disorders
  • Substance Use Disorders

You are not alone

If you have experienced or are currently experiencing any of the following symptoms, it is important to recognize that you may have a mental health condition, and you should see your primary care provider or mental health professional. Mental illness can get worse over time, so it is important not to wait. It is also important to understand that you are not alone. Mental illnesses are quite common and most are fully treatable.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the following symptoms may be signs of a mental health condition3:

  • Feeling sad or down
  • Confused thinking or reduced ability to concentrate
  • Excessive fears or worries, or extreme feelings of guilt
  • Extreme mood changes of highs and lows
  • Withdrawal from friends and activities
  • Significant tiredness, low energy or problems sleeping
  • Detachment from reality (delusions), paranoia or hallucinations
  • Inability to cope with daily problems or stress
  • Trouble understanding and relating to situations and to people
  • Problems with alcohol or drug use
  • Major changes in eating habits 
  • Sex drive changes
  • Excessive anger, hostility or violence
  • Suicidal thinking

Ask for help if you need it

There is no shame in asking for help. If you think or feel like you need help, ASK! Here are some organizations that provide resources you can reach out to directly if you or a loved one is need of support.

Mental Health Resources

The following are intended to give you quick access to mental health information and resources.

NIH provides a list of resources to support you in finding help for you, a friend, or family members. Resources include getting help in a crisis, finding a healthcare provider or treatment, and others.
The American Psychiatric Association has an easy-to-use lookup tool to help you find psychiatrists in your area. Click below to access the lookup tool.

NAMI has a robust list, including: helplines, suicide & crisis hotlines, financial assistance, advocacy & legal, and community support.