Does the idea of taking a vacation and not checking your email give you anxiety? After returning from a 10-day vacation to Peru, I want to bust a common myth in the corporate world. We are conditioned to believe if we entirely disconnect from our devices that the world will fall apart without us creating more stress upon our return to the office. So we check emails and respond to non-emergencies despite our out of office that says we are unavailable. We spend our mental energy focusing on issues arising in our absence or solving problems that would probably resolve on their own. In the end, we never fully embrace our time off to connect with family, friends, nature, or whatever the purpose of taking our vacation in the first place.
For the first time in my career, I fully disengaged from work and honored the out of office that I set while attending a yoga retreat in the Sacred Valley of Peru. Spending most of my time in a remote area of the Andes Mountains helped ease the decision as internet connections were limited. However, I needed a full break and to connect with the purpose of the trip which was awakening your true self through yoga, plant medicine, and connecting with nature. I was there to do a different kind of work that would serve me greater than anything in my inbox.
As a result of entirely disconnecting, I had some great revelations. At first, I was confused that I was not sleeping much. I am used to vacation as the time that you catch up on rest in between adventures. We went to bed early each night, but every morning I would wake up even earlier than before with only a few hours sleep relishing in the sunrise and the experiences of the previous day. I was reminded that I have never required as much sleep as most but felt as I was getting older that was changing. However, it seems not having the stresses of the day and constant reactive communication via my iPhone was the real drain on my mind and body. It was amazing how much more energy I had when not relying on caffeine to get through the day.
Often when returning from a trip or just a long weekend, that first day back can be tough wishing you were still on vacation not wanting to return to reality just yet. Probably because if you never entirely disconnect then you never really relax. For the first time, I was happy to get back to work fully refreshed and recharged ready to tackle anything that happened in my absence. My mindset had shifted, and I had immense gratitude for the time off which had me jumping out of bed and excited to start my day. I was quickly able to move through priority items and handle the demands of my time upon returning with grace.
Reminded that the world would go on without us and it is our need to be needed that drives us to stay connected at all times. I had no nervousness or dread when I first synced my email. In the past, knowing how many unanswered emails I had waiting would subconsciously cause anxiety and overwhelm upon returning to work. Not surprising that many situations resolved themselves before I even returned. It was a great reminder that as a leader we set the example to give others not only the permission to enjoy their time off but to empower others in our absence to be problem solvers creating more leaders rather than just followers.
So I will encourage and challenge each of you especially if you have never entirely taken time off from work or your email. To see for yourself, the effects of disconnecting for a week and fully immersing yourself in your vacation. You may find the benefits outlast any minor emergencies that take place while you are gone. Reminding yourself that while we all have the need to be needed, life and work will go one in our absence. You may even find when you return that you are reinvigorated increasing your focus, creativity, and productivity when you are working. The goal should be attaining sustainable success, and with that, you need time for yourself and to create true work-life integration.