Give Me a Break!
David Freund, Chief Leadership Officer

During last week’s podcast, Marisa and I started talking about the need for leaders to rest. I shared with Marisa and our listeners that, according to a boss I once had, you need a minimum vacation of two-weeks because it takes one week to disconnect and relax before you can rest. As you can imagine, I was working for a European company where everyone had a lot of vacation. I also shared that the most time I ever took off in one stretch was eight days because we had traveled to Europe to show our children where my wife was born and went to school. Everyone needs time off, and yet, according to Psychology Today, 573 million vacation days go unused. The same article stated If a woman allows six or more years to pass between vacations, she is eight times more likely to develop heart disease. Men who forego their annual vacation have a 32 percent greater risk of dying of a heart attack. But what do we do if we can’t get two weeks off at a time? We need to find ways to destress and relax even before we go on vacation. Let’s take a look at a few things each of us can do beginning today.

  • Develop your end of day ritual. The worst thing you can do is to keep running until you absolutely need to leave work, stuff everything into your satchel, and rush out the door. You need to take 20 or 30 minutes to methodically shut down. Review your big tasks for the day. Review any emails that required a response. Return any phone calls that are still outstanding and plan your next day. Start by identifying your two or three most important tasks that need to be accomplished tomorrow. After that is done, review each meeting or appointment you have. Think through who will be there and what you hope to achieve. Intentionally think through the best case scenarios or outcomes. When you are done, go home. This simple daily ritual dramatically reduces stress.
  • Breathe – This may sound crazy, but just breathe! I don’t know about you, but when I am stressed, I hold my breath. Deep breathing increases the supply of oxygen to your brain and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes a state of calmness.
  • Plan out 20 minutes of daily solitude – When you are running nonstop, your brain becomes over-stimulated and your body becomes fatigued. We all need to have quiet so that we can process and file the data we have taken in. For a Type A, get it done person, this can be brutal. The key is to establish a ritual of seeking solitude. The more you do it, the easier it is.
  • Get laser-focused on the day before and the day after a vacation – The day before you leave is similar to the daily shut down ritual, only more complete. Make sure all the loose ends are taken tied up. Who will respond to emails for you? Who will cover emergencies while you are gone? The day you return is just as important. Give yourself a day to catch up before scheduling large tasks and meetings.

Most people are probably thinking, “This all sounds good, but in reality, it just doesn’t work.” Well, you are partially correct; it doesn’t just happen. You need to be highly intentional and schedule it. If you would like more information about his topic, please join Marisa Norcross and me for Episode 144 of the next page podcast as we share ways to reduce stress and rest.

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