I was all set to take my first vacation in nearly a year - a trip to South America that had been planned for months. Then I got Covid (again).
With the trip canceled, I spent the next two days under the duvet watching two seasons of the
toxic masculinity that is Succession. As I emerged from the fog of Covid (and that show), I decided to create the restoration I needed with the rest of my time. Even if it was from home.
And it got me thinking about the importance of staycations. We would do well to carve out some time each week (frankly, each day) where we engage in restorative activities. Here are the ones I found the most helpful and why.
I cozied up on my outdoor porch with my dogs, pillows, and blankets and did nothing. By the way, the dogs are not incidental and there is a reason beyond airline travel that so many people call their pets emotional support animals. Cuddling with something furry helps you ease back into your parasympathetic nervous system, release love hormones, and feel calmer.
I centered my body. I focused on my breathing and my senses, which was made more difficult by Covid, since both my lungs and sense of smell were affected by the virus. But I embraced the challenge because it meant that I really had to focus.
I also paid attention to what I could hear (children playing in the park behind my house) and feel (warm sun, cool early spring breeze). Somatic awareness matters. When we are feeling fear or pain, or we are in a reactive state, focusing on our body, breath, and physical sensations, are quick and easy ways to return us to a calmer state. Practicing this when we are not experiencing heightened emotions improves our ability to use this technique when we are in a state of stress.
Most importantly, because I had blocked the time in my diary to be away and had no work planned, I didn’t use the time to “catch up” on emails or other work. We live our lives in a constant state of needing to get things done. And even our holiday, had we taken it, was a fully scheduled itinerary of events. I had no idea how much I needed to do nothing.
I am an avid reader of non-fiction, often devouring what I’ve come to refer to as “Heathrow Business Books” – those that you pick up in the airport and finish in flight. I read with pen in hand and make notes of what I can use in my teaching or what I can share with my coaching clients. The time is productive and enjoyable. But I hadn’t read a work of fiction in months. I’m noticing that my attention span is taking a beating from all the scrolling and clicking. To sit with a book in solitude was challenging at first. But by the fourth day, I noticed that I couldn’t wait to pick up the book and slip back into another world. It’s hard at first, like hitting the gym after a month off. But, oh, so worth it.
I spent one day tending to all my plants, cutting away the dead leaves, giving them plant food, moving them outside for a couple of hours of straight sunshine, adding dirt to a few, and cleaning the leaves of others. This only whet my appetite for outdoor gardening, which will also start soon. Watching something grow is rewarding and healing. Keeping plants inside works wonders, and you can add an even heftier dose of calm if you’re fortunate enough to have some land outdoors that you can tend to. Even the Mayo Clinic in the US has researched the benefits of working with plants, including lightening mood, lowering stress and anxiety and creating a soothing rhythm.
As I said before, I intentionally did not use my staycation to catch up on emails or other work because that wouldn’t be a break. But I did take some time to reflect on what I do and why I do it. I thought deeply about it and considered it from a different perspective. If I am successful at what I do, how will I know?
There is not a day that goes by that I am not having at least one of these conversations with a woman. These conversations energize me, give me hope, inspire me, and keep me focused on improving the quality of my coaching and helping my clients achieve these things.
When you put the people that you serve first, the rewards are endless.
How can you create restorative practices and incorporate them into your life to help you maintain a sense of calm and cultivate resilience?