Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Importance of Really Getting Away Once and a While

I hope that those of you that had off for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day took full advantage of your three day weekend.  If not, I hope that you think ahead to when you can get away at least once before Spring Break.  I mean really get away--both mentally and in terms of physical distance.

I subjected myself to an awful experiment last year that I would not want you to replicate.  For a number of reasons, I took no real vacations between the winter break of 2009-10 and the break just a couple of weeks ago.  I did travel, but only for work.  I only saw my parents last year because they came here to visit me once each. I didn't visit my dear New Jersey; indeed, I hadn't traveled more than an hour or so away from home in south Texas.

While I certainly did not spend all of my weekends or sporadic days off working, which is the first half of a true vacation, I never got the physical distance needed to fully break away.  Not surprisingly, I was emotionally and physically burnt out and not doing the job that I was capable of doing.  If you never recharge your batteries, you will perpetually be this close to shutting down.

You need breaks where you are physically seperated from your normal surroundings if you're ever going to be able to mentally separate and recharge.  Sleeping in, staying home and spending time with your family will certainly help and should be a part of most weekends.  Yet if that's your only respite from your stressful work life, you'll never be the educator you want to be.

You don't have to fly across the country, or necessarily drive far away.  You just need to go somewhere different, outside of your routine and home, and spend the majority of your time off there.  This can be done in a weekend or a week-long break, but it needs to be done once a month at a minimum.  Cutting yourself off digitally is also increasingly helpful as our connections to work become even more unavoidable due to technology.

I spent my entire break back in New Jersey, resting, sleeping, spending quality time with friends and family, and reminiscing about days gone by (among other things).  It wasn't until I had been there for a few days that I realized just how much I had needed a break.  I forgot about work, let go of the stress, and let myself be free for those two weeks.  When I came back and started up work again, I finished more high quality work in the first few hours than I had in the week leading up to the break

I can honestly say I've been on a roll since the break, but I know that I need to look for opportunities for the type of mental and physical breaks I'm referring to soon.  Otherwise, I'll quickly slow down and then slip into a consistent cycle of mediocrity.

Don't let it happen to you--it's never too late to find that opportunity to break away!