I’ve always hated vacations. I last about a day and then I get antsy, cranky, restless, start eating junk food, and stop smiling. I soon start existing in a sort of twilight zone, of being too lazy and unmotivated to do anything yet also hating myself for being lazy and unmotivated. People also say that if you can’t rest peacefully, there’s basically something wrong with you on a deep spiritual level - perhaps you have committed some grave sin (sorry for religious terminology) and you can’t really be at rest.
I used to think my reaction was some sort of personality flaw or evidence of sinfulness but I’ve realised that my existence when I’m not working actually triggers a chemical imbalance in my brain (aka depression).
I’m about to take a vacation in a few weeks, to Michigan on a lake house to be at my cousin’s wedding. I was dreading it until today when I realised that in fact I could make a plan not to just ‘try harder not to be in a bad mood’ but in fact to do specific things so that I don’t trigger an episode of chemical imbalance.
Here are the specific issues I have when I’m not working:
Let’s break these down a bit:
1. No routineThis is a big one. I simply don’t cope well when I don’t have a routine, and especially a routine that means I need to fulfil my obligations to other people. When I have a routine, I’m motivated to get other stuff done - to fit in the gym, or meditation, or violin practice, because I know that my time is limited and much of it is spoken for.
On vacation, I can always do any of these good things at any time, so there’s no incentive to do anything urgently. Consequently, I lie around on the sofa and gradually become part of the furniture.
2. No meaningful goals
I am a very goal-oriented person: I do really well when I have a certain task to complete in a deadline. This is the very antithesis of a vacation - I’m meant to kick back, relax, not be under any pressure. This to me feels like I’m stagnating.
3. No exercise
One of the first victims of my lethargy is that exercise, which might help me loads, goes out the window. Or at most I’ll exercise at night, which is better than nothing, but usually comes after a long day of lying around feeling useless.
4. Not being in my own space
I really rely on having a certain quiet space that I can retreat into to meditate, read, or just recharge. It’s difficult when on vacation with other people to find this space, but more difficult than finding it is using it - again, the temptation to lie on the sofa drinking endless cups of diminishingly-returning coffee means I don’t get off my ass to meditate.
And the final piece is that after I’ve become cranky, fat, and lazy, I then feel too much like a waste of space to talk to people. I also have this weird feeling that if the day has been bad until a certain point (usually in the afternoon), there’s no redeeming it and I just need to go to bed and not see people and maybe tomorrow will be better (it usually isn’t).
But all is not lost! My plans for tackling this malaise are as follows:
Get an accountability partner to make sure I meditate first thing in the morning for ten minutes at a set time every day. It’s only one week so I know it’s an achievable goal.
Find a creative goal unrelated to music, tech, or code to achieve during this time. I’ve recently begun crocheting again, so I think I might bite off a more ambitious project than I’ve tried so far - perhaps a sweater! This also serves the crucial purpose of keeping my hands occupied NOT on my phone and I find it tremendously soothing. I will also bring a backup project in case I finish the first one so I don’t go into withdrawal symptoms.
I have to think seriously whether or not I will manage to get any running done in Michigan. I suspect not, and I don’t want to hike my running gear over for nothing. But I will definitely commit to walking my steps each day, and I will up my step count from 8250 to 8500 on my FitBit. On a more informal basis, I will play games of tag etc with my nieces and nephews!
Create a space, use it to meditate - and then get out and talk to people!
I will communicate all these ideas to my family and use that support structure to keep to my routines.
Do you have similar feelings when you go on holiday? How do you tackle them? Post in the comments below or send me an email!
I am an Irish-American violinist living in Cambridge, UK. I perform with the Philharmonia, the Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightenment, and many other top groups, and am also the Business Developer for Encore Music and am on the Makers Academy course for programming.