Stress Takes a Holiday: 5 Questions for a Happier Life
“And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow.”
– W.B. Yeats
Through a thick canopy of trees, I caught tiny glimpses of wooden cabins where the only way to get to them is by way of the bright-colored canoes anchored neatly to their backyard posts; and each backyard was the creek itself, its water the color of a cool jade stone.
The sun was starting to set over the red rocks, which made for an even prettier backdrop to the already scenic creek below the balcony of my hotel room. I didn’t know how long I’ve been sitting but I was content to watch the clouds float behind the red rock formations, the familiar Sedona landmark, while listening to the hum of cicadas growing increasingly louder as night fell. I was living out one of my favorite William Butler Yeats poems.
In other words, I was on vacation.
For some Americans, vacation is an escape. A chance to reset. A way to recharge. I, too, have thought of vacation along these lines. But on this particular trip, I set out to bring a vacation mindset back to “real life.”
First, we should ask the question of, “how is ‘real life’ different from life on vacation?”
A vacation is fun, spontaneous, carefree, novel.
Real life, on the other hand, can be harsh, hectic, dog-eat-dog, a continuous rat race, nose to the grindstone kind of existence, and so little joy.
Real life is…full of musts, have-to’s, laden with so much responsibilities that at times, one can be left feeling powerless and overwhelmed.
Real life is… well, frankly, you need a vacation from it.
Say if this were true, that out of 52 weeks of the year, we give ourselves permission to only have two weeks to truly live, how incredibly sad real life is!
But it does not have to be your truth.
Granted, with real life, you can’t roll out of bed at whatever time you please and roll in to work in your bikini and flip-flops with cocktails grasped firmly in both hands. That’s the beauty of a vacation; it is permission to play.
Rather than wait for the next holiday, can’t we this very instant, adopt a vacation mindset and inject some of it into our “reality” so reality bites less?
Yes, we can. We simply need to ask five good questions, and if we were to make a shift in our everyday pattern to incorporate them, life will feel more joyful and carefree…as if we are on vacation.
1. How can I change the pace?
One of my biggest stressors is the perception that people and things external to myself are controlling the pace of my day. On days when this also feels true for you, it is easy to think that everyone and everything is a soul-sucking vampire. That’s when you need to change the pace.
Daily life is no different than dancing. Think of the last time you were out on the dance floor dancing to your favorite music. Then the DJ changed the music to something with a different beat. Do you keep dancing at the same rhythm? Unless you are truly tone deaf and inherited two left feet, it was unlikely, right? And what’s more, if you truly hated the music, you would have left the dance floor. Same concept with the pace of life. Change the pace. Then you might find everyone and everything else learning to keep pace with you.
2. What feeds me?
One of the few absolutes I permit myself when on vacation is to make time for breakfast. I’m not talking about the kind you can eat with one hand while trying to steer your car with the other. I’m talking about a real breakfast served with real silverware and linens.
In other words, I was literally feeding myself. In caring for myself, I fed myself in other ways.
At the start of each day when on vacation, I found myself asking, “what feeds me?” One morning, the answer was yoga. The other morning, the answer was eating gourmet ice cream while taking an evening stroll.
What feeds you? You need to consciously ask yourself this question every day.
3. What one thing, new or different, can I do today?
Variety is the spice of life. Much like any other muscles in your body, your brain, hits a plateau if you keep doing the same thing day after day. You have to introduce novelty into your routine. Getting out of bed is easy when you have something to look forward to.
4. What grounds me?
This suggestion may sound like the complete opposite of #3 but it is actually a fitting companion. You need variety as much as you need something to ground you. Have a type of routine or ritual. Mine was morning yoga. Yours may be meditation, prayer or the simple act of watering your houseplant.
5. What will bring me enjoyment?
The “have to’s,” “musts,” and “shoulds” are leeches of joy. No wonder life feels so heavy. If we can find one thing in our day that brings enjoyment, we can be elevated at any given momen
Your turn: What is the most valuable lesson(s) you took from past vacations? Please kindly leave a comment here or on my Facebook page so I and others may learn from you.