Are you living for vacation? I was. At least I was until last week, when I realized I either had four weeks to be miserable until my next vacation or four weeks to do something about the fact that I was spreading my low energy and bad moods around like an infectious disease.
In three weeks, I will be headed off the grid again for a 16-day yoga teacher training program in Santa Barbara. I'm excited about this for more reasons than I can count, but at the top of my list: deepening my yoga practice, learning how to teach yoga (I would love to work with teen girls one day), and taking 16-days to myself as I live in a yurt, unplugged, eating well and taking care of myself.
You might think I'm crazy for signing up for this amidst everything else I have going on (and wiping out all remaining vacation days), but to me it's one of those soul-stirring things that I felt compelled, deep in my gut, to pursue. (The decision itself was featured in a great post from the fabulous Susan Biali in Psychology Today: Shackles or Soul-Stirring? Decide Before You Commit.)
Signed up...and Ready to Run
As soon as I paid the deposit, I started desperately counting the days until I could run away again. Shut down my computer and my to-do lists and the pressure to say yes or no to things, and just go on my merry yurt-living way. I watched my energy tank drain itself empty, day after day, as I fell off the workout wagon, ate more desserts than I care to admit, and could barely find the motivation to get dressed in the morning. I wasn't sleeping through the night any more, and I had almost no energy. I kept desperately screaming to myself, "THIS YOGA TEACHER TRAINING CAN'T COME SOON ENOUGH!!!" and wondering why it still felt so. damn. far. away.
And then it hit me. I could either live like a zombie until vacation, or identify the benefits I was expecting and find a way to start doing them before even making it down to Santa Barbara.
A quick aside: I realize that I am lucky enough to have this problem. I am lucky to have cool things keeping me busy, a job in the first place, and lucky to even have a vacation on the horizon. But I still learned a few things that I hope you can benefit from.
Living for Vacation? 5 Tips to Improve Your Life Now
- Make a list of the expected benefits of your vacation. In my case I want to feel more relaxed, eat healthier, move my body more, study something I am passionate about, unplug, and have an "excuse" to say no to all of the things I don't want to do (even though I know in reality I shouldn't need one -- see tip #4).
- For each benefit, brainstorm five ways you could achieve that effect between now and your vacation. You might even split a piece of paper into two columns - listing the benefits on the left, and your brainstorm for each one on the right.
- Take a weekend off. I had the most glorious day on Sunday because I had NO plans. I hid away in my condo and just read the newspaper, sat on my patio, read books, did some writing, and did some work. I had nowhere to be until 6pm and I felt so relieved not to be bouncing around chasing after various plans and errands. Even if you can't take a vacation (or your next one isn't for a while), create space for a little staycation day or weekend.
- Ask yourself: What am I avoiding? What are you hoping that vacation will fix or give you an excuse for, that you don't feel permission to do now? In my case it's saying no to things. I keep waiting for vacation so I can say, "Sorry! I'm out of office!" but in reality I need to start saying no NOW to being over-committed.
- Give yourself a short-term goal and set-up a reward to look forward to when you complete it. What is one thing you can aim for this week to start improving your life now, even before any upcoming trips? Maybe it's getting back to the gym, or maybe it's finishing a big project at work. Your goal doesn't have to be huge or overly difficult - it just has to give you something to work toward in the short-term. And don't forget to reward yourself when you complete it! After all, indulgence is half the fun of a vacation :)
So how have I changed since my aha moment last week? I'm on Day 8 of a crazy-sounding cleanse (no coffee, no alcohol, no wheat, no dairy, no beef, no SUGAR (!!), no eggs) -- something I used to think would be more impossible than running a marathon -- and I've never felt better. I'm going to bed earlier, I'm working out again, and I'm saying no to most requests between now and my trip.
By the time I show up for training in Santa Barbara, I won't NEED it so much. I will actually be able to enjoy it.
So how about you? What do you do when you find yourself living for vacation?