Avoiding Leisure Guilt - How to Balance Work and Play
Vacation. You've waited for what seems to be an eternity for that blissful week away from work, all the while being teased with visions of sleeping in late, traveling to an exciting destination, or doing your favorite hobby. All of these visions can indeed come true during a vacation -- right after you check your office e-mail, voicemail, fax machine, pager, Palm Pilot, Blackberry, work cell phone, website, and intranet. Ten times a day.
"Overworked and over-stressed workers may end up taking vacations regardless -- either now at a beach resort, or later in the hospital while recuperating from a stress-related condition."
"Leisure guilt is not a new phenomenon," says Dr. Raymond Folen, associate professor of psychology at Argosy University in Honolulu. "For decades, white collar workaholics have packed reports and office correspondence right next to the bathing suits in the suitcase. In the past, though, what helped put some boundaries on this behavior was the fact that taking a vacation made one much less accessible to those back at the work place."
With the advent of portable computers, e-mail, instant messaging and immediate access via cell phones, issues at the workplace now follow the employee worldwide and at the speed of light. The seemingly simple answer would be to leave the computer and cell phone behind. So why aren't we doing this?
"We often have a strong tendency to check in with the office, to see 'how things are going.' Workers justify this as being conscientious, but in fact, it may be the result of fear and anxiety about job security," explains Dr. Folen. Those concerns may be fueled by worries about an aspiring, overly- competitive co-worker, a subordinate that is coveting one's job, or a critical boss.
Others who are without work-related fear or anxiety may avoid or, at the very least, intensely dislike vacations because taking the time off makes them feel bad or worthless. "Often these individuals were raised by parents who instilled in them the notion that a good child is a productive child," says Dr. Folen. While this is not necessarily a bad value, vacations that result in depression or feelings of worthlessness may stem from these early beliefs being taken to an extreme.
So, with all of the stress and emotions workers must undertake every day, what does one do to begin to enjoy a vacation? Dr. Folen recommends the following:
- Ask a trusted friend at work to 'watch your back' while you are away. Ask him or her to contact you only if something really serious happens. This way, you don't have to constantly check in with office -- in this scenario, no news is good news.
- Prior to the vacation, write down the benefits and liabilities of taking one. If the bases are covered by a trusted colleague, the liability list will turn out to be the shortest one.
- Realize that taking a vacation is as important for your mind, body, and spirit as exercise and watching one's diet. They need a break from the daily grind. A vacation might allow the brain to grow some new dendrites branch-like elements of brain cells that tend to break off under chronic stress. A vacation may allow the mind to gain fresh perspectives and allow the body to appropriately repair and maintain itself.
Says Dr. Folen: "Overworked and over-stressed workers may end up taking vacations regardless -- either now at a beach resort, or later in the hospital while recuperating from a stress-related condition." And at a hospital, they don't serve poolside daiquiris.
(Source: Argosy University)