How do I get that holiday feeling?
March 1, 2011 6:05 PM   Subscribe

How do I make my (stay-at-home) holiday feel like a real break?

I finished up a very stressful job last Thursday. I am starting my new, very exciting job on 1 April. I timed it like this so I could take four weeks of vacation - the first no-work break I will have had since 2004. I originally imagined this break as time spent lying in bed all day, lounging around in my pajamas, drinking endless amounts of coffee, reading trashy library books, and going for long walks in the park.

I'm nearly a week in and I just can't get that relaxing feeling. The problems are thus:

- I have this constant feeling in the back of my mind like I should be working. Sort of a restless poke-poke feeling that makes it difficult to sit down and relax. I feel guilty for not working!

- I do actually have stupid work-like obligations during this "break". In the four weekdays off I have had so far, I have had to attend two meetings relating to a conference I am helping run in a few months, have had to write up the minutes for one of these meetings, have had to go into university to submit some paperwork for a research study I am involved in, had to clear out my old office and set up my new one, and now it turns out there is a job I need to apply for with a deadline of 21 March. There are more meetings I will have to attend in the next couple of weeks. I also volunteer a couple of times a week at things that feel quite work-like. I haven't had a chance to sleep in late yet and I've been going into university on average twice a day!

- I was originally planning to go visit friends and family during this period, but they are all in Christchurch, so that's uh, not going to be happening. One friend I would have visited is trying to persuade me to come anyway, as she works for civil defence, and they need extra hands to help out, but oh god, I don't think I could bear it. It's hard enough seeing it all from this distance. But I'm feeling guilty for not helping, so that feeds back into the above issues.

My questions are:
- are my expectations for an obligation-free break just selfish and totally unrealistic? Should I just be working on adjusting to the way things are?

- are there actual things I can do to get rid of the above problems (the guilty feeling, the restlessness, the actual obligations)?

- otherwise, how can I fix my attitude so that the rest of the time FEELS like a real holiday, even if I'm not going away, and even though it's getting interrupted by so much stuff?

- any other practical suggestions you have for a stay-at-home holiday: fun things to do, how to organise your day, etc.
posted by lollusc to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (8 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: It seems to me you need to schedule relaxation time - that is to say, from 8am-12pm on Thursday, you have an appointment with the park, where you will eat exotic fruit and sing along to goofy songs on your iPod (or whatever.) Put "sleeping in" on your calendar. If necessary, schedule these things with a buddy - someone you have promised you will sleep in, or who will meet you at the park, or whatever.
posted by SMPA at 6:23 PM on March 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

I could give you some enjoyable suggestions. But, well, a person can be in the middle of the all-time greatest party in the world and still be miserable, if he/she wants to be. IMHO, it sounds like there's deeper issues going on here that fun activities won't fix.
posted by tamagogirl at 7:05 PM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: think of what 'vacation' means to you - imagine you were doing all the things you wanted to be doing on your vacation.
for me, that means some days sleeping late, having coffee with friends, cooking things, and something exotic that i wouldn't normally do, like going to the spa or getting a massage or something.
now, PLAN to do those things. maybe you want to take 3 days in a row where all you do is fun stuff, before jumping back into work commitments, or maybe you want to make sure you do one fun thing every day. however it works, schedule it in, and then do it! you'll be surprised at how much time you have if you make time for you. in those moments, you're not allowed to bring stress or other guilt into it. (they will be there when you're done, trust me.) this way you can follow through on your commitments and still look after yourself.

happy staycation!
posted by andreapandrea at 7:11 PM on March 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: My solution for meetings during off-time is to wander slowly back from them - have coffee, meet a friend in the area, browse for books or art supplies, walk down a nice street, head into a cinema for a matinee - because I can never do that when I'm busy. Those things you never have time for? Do them, enjoy them, and if you feel guilty, see if you can squash it by thinking, "gosh, it's lovely to be doing this while I've the time!".
posted by carbide at 7:30 PM on March 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

I am a huge fan of the staycation, but in my experience it takes me at least ten days—and more often a fortnight—to really switch off and unwind. For the first week, I feel a low-level feeling of guilt that I'm not at work, I check my blackberry way too often, and I find it really hard to just let the time pass without doing *something*. But before long, it happens, and I find that I've slept in without realising—and that's when I know I'm on holidays for real.

If it helps, the scheduling ideas of SMPA and andreapandrea might work, but for me, nothing works as well as just waiting it out. Your brain will click over into holiday mode eventually!
posted by impluvium at 8:41 PM on March 1, 2011

Best answer: Agreed that it will take some transition time. Also, is it possible for you to not check email and possibly turn off your mobile phone for a few days? I find that being completely disconnected helps me, well, disconnect. I recently went to Belize for a week and had no phone and no email for a blessed 7 days. For the first couple of days I found myself subconsciously reaching for my iPhone to see if I had email/texts - but after those couple of days I just relaxed into the bliss of being far away and completely unreachable. Heaven.

(I know you have obligations but am wondering if you can structure your responsibilities and/or others' expectations so that you have a chunk of days where you truly don't have to be responsible to anyone for anything.)
posted by hapax_legomenon at 8:53 PM on March 1, 2011

Can you make your staycation more of a vacation? Go to museums, see movies, eat in restaurants. Do things you would do if you weren't at home. They'll get you out of the house and away from your obligations while still leaving you feeling like you're doing 'something' rather than vegging in front of the TV.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:50 PM on March 1, 2011

Response by poster: Those are all great answers: thanks! I think that focusing on the chunks of time when I DON'T have obligations, and scheduling relaxation in then, might really help.

Of course, just when I was feeling more positive about the break turning around and getting better, I just now got a phone call that my Granddad has died.

I think I might have to write the next week or two off and try for a solid break in the final week before I go back to work.
posted by lollusc at 11:33 PM on March 1, 2011

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