My husband and I realized over a decade ago that we are not good at relaxing. We were on a Disney cruise with our then 5- and 3-year-old children. We stopped at Castaway Cay and for the first time checked our children into the Kids Club. After getting them settled, we hiked over to the adults-only side of the island, swam a bit, ordered some snacks and drinks, and settled in to read the books we had brought with us. Fifteen minutes later, we looked at each other, and someone said, “This is awful; let’s go snorkeling or ride jet skis. This sitting around is for the birds!” I envy friends of ours who can sit on the beach for hours reading. I love to read—at home, in my spare time. When I am on vacation, I have no interest in doing anything that I can do at home.
I don’t mean to imply that we don’t vacation. I’m simply saying that when we do, we vacation with a purpose. When we go on a quick weekend getaway, we go to a lake to water ski, tube, and swim. When we travel abroad, we have a serious itinerary for where we are going and what we are going to do. We might end up on a beach in Greece, but we will be on paddle boards, collecting interesting rocks, or eating crudo, but not just sitting on the beach relaxing. Of course, there is some downtime, but the best vacations for me are ones where I fall into bed at the end of the day exhausted from all that we did and discovered that day.
Many years ago, I heard a story of a pastor from Hawaii who had to be hospitalized for exhaustion because he spent all of his time helping others. He would cancel vacations, wake up early, and stay up late to help those in his congregation, and it eventually overwhelmed him. Once he reemerged and entered back into his professional life, he would set up his annual calendar, scheduling his recreation time first, and then committed to not canceling for any reason. He learned to say yes to his recreation, which enabled him to be at his best around those activities that he said yes to.
Over the last year, long vacations and much-needed respite have been in short supply. However, working from home has taught me something—in addition to discovering that the Roomba is really annoying and that our dogs bark way more than we ever knew: Opportunities for recreation are everywhere if you just remember to just look for them. From walking and kayaking in the morning to playing nine holes of twilight golf, I find that making time for physical activity is both good for the body and calming for the mind. This past year has served as a reminder that though relaxation (as it’s typically defined) is not for me, any opportunity to take part in active recreation can renew my spirit and prepare me for a highly productive 10-hour session working at my computer.
As we enter into the height of vacation time, I hope you will plan some recreational experiences for yourself on a weekly and, if possible, daily basis. I believe a moment of respite, discovery, or activity can be good for what ails you.