Sometimes when a holiday weekend rolls around, I get a strange kind of anxiety.
That's because holidays can be both a blessing and a curse. When you're constantly swamped with work, just one extra day can feel like a welcome break...or a guilt trip waiting to happen. Sure you could relax, take a trip, do a movie marathon...but wouldn't it be smarter to tackle all of those emails crowding your inbox or to work on your book?
Which was precisely my dilemma this past weekend. May was probably the craziest month of my year; weekends were spent flying to North Carolina for my brother's graduation and driving to Montreal with friends, and weekdays were consumed with the usual editorial work plus prepping for speaking at the American Society of Journalists and Authors conference (pictured below).
So when Memorial Day weekend rolled around with absolutely no plans, I had a choice; spend the weekend catching up on work, or turn off my brain for the first time all month?
And while catching up on work would certainly make me feel more on top of things when the week rolled around, it could also backfire. Which is how I eventually made the best plan for my weekend; instead of burning myself out even further by forcing myself to work, or spending even more energy dragging myself on yet another trip or activity, I restricted myself to a day in the park and one night of drinks with friends. Beyond that, I was home. And what I discovered I was lacking was something I bet you're lacking too.
Listen to your body, not your brain
When you spend so much time living in your thoughts, it's easy to get mired in the intellectual and forget the physical. At a certain point, our bodies become impediments to our minds; when our energy is lacking, it's easier to chug a coffee than it is to stop working and listen to our bodies. But that's an easy recipe for burnout and writer's block. I'll tell you something; just before the long weekend, I hated work. I was playing with different ideas on how to change what I did for a living...and I created my own job! It was completely absurd, but I couldn't see the forest for the trees because I wasso burnt out.
What I wasn't doing was listening to my body. I felt like I "should" be working on weekends, so I worked on weekends. I felt like I "should" be taking advantage of every fun event, so I did that too. I was listening to my brain and ignoring my body. And I very quickly started to hate my life.
Once I gave myself some space to breathe this past weekend, the strangest thing happened. I did what my body wanted me to do, and it was completely the opposite of what I thought I wanted. I slept for hours on end. I drank as much water as I could. When my body wanted to move, I went to the gym, but not before that. I started craving healthier food. It was like every goal I had for myself came to me naturally, but only because I was listening to my body.
This is probably all advice we've heard before, but let me ask you this; when was the last time you actually lived it? How many times have you pushed yourself to make this deadline, that event, to write just five more pages? And how many times has that pushing bled into other parts of your life?
And wouldn't you believe it? When Tuesday morning rolled around, I couldn't wait to check my email and get back to work. I no longer needed long breaks during the day, I didn't need as much caffeine, I was excited to do what I dreaded just a week before. And it didn't take an expensive vacation. All it took was listening to my body.