09/12/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Why You Must Vacation When Your Wallet Is Empty

Sometimes, it's just when you can least afford to take a break that it turns out to be the most necessary. If you are anything like me, you've heard a number of people this year, (maybe even yourself,) say something like this: 'We could really use a vacation this year, but can't afford it." On the surface, it might seem the problem is a lack of vacation. The deeper issue, is, however, more along the lines of how Anne Morrow Lindbergh put it: " to still the soul in the midst of its to feed the soul. For it is the Spirit of a woman that is going dry." Men, too.

With all the abounding uncertainties and stress these days, the great news is that there is increasing awareness that it is incumbent upon us to 'take five.' Fact is that this attitude is so prevalent, that a new word has been added to the English lexicon recently: 'staycation.' Perhaps you've been dabbling with one yourself? Taking a 'staycation' means that you're taking time for a vacation, but rather than vacating your premises, you are 'staying put.' The implication is that this is a new idea.

Not really. Ask around. Check the lives of the creative greats. Virginia Woolf created a 'room of her own.' Carl Jung, and protégée, Maria Louise von Franz, each were firm believers that you simply have to create a space where you can be with your own natural self in order to live out who you are fully, in order to replenish your own creative juices. Without these flowing, we will never, ever be able to respond more effectively to the uncertain present and future. Remember Joseph Campbell's urging us to find our own bliss station? Artists, psychologists, mythologists throughout time, have understood that 'taking a break' is essential for our renewal, the regaining of perspective, and the enhancement of our skill in running our own race.

The Take-away from Peak Performers. I met a man by the name of Charles Garfield some years ago who was doing some compelling research on Peak Performers, beginning with winners of the Olympic Gold. Eventually, he expanded his investigation to 'peak performers' in a variety of fields. Charlie wanted to know what factors they might have in common as a population, that, if known, might prove to be helpful for the rest of us not yet standing in an Olympic stadium stage receiving the gold medal. What he found was something compelling. All of them took regular breaks, at least every six weeks! In fact, three day weekends, on that kind of a regular schedule, were common.

My husband and I vowed to do likewise. Our commitment lasted about 18 months. Eventually, our excuses got the better of us. It is so easy to slip back into old habits. But, I can tell you this: those breaks were invaluable! Just when we thought we couldn't get away, with all the zillions of excuses to build a case to prove the world could not do without us, (check the inflation), if we took the leap of faith and went, despite the excuses, it was well worth the risk. Each and every time, we returned invigorated, and with lots more energy and clarity to take on what needed attending with more effectiveness. I'm sorry to report that little by little, we succumbed to becoming grapes in the press, with all the others, and the time away, on a regular basis, became a thing of the past, until this past year.

Why We need Staycations? Lindberg puts it succinctly:

"... I want first of all--to be at peace with myself, I want a singleness of eye, a purity of intention, a central core to my life that will enable me to carry out those obligations and activities as well as I live 'in grace' as much of the time as possible...I am seeking perhaps what Socrates asked for in the prayer from the Phoedrus when he said, 'May the outward and inward man be at one.' The problem is that our lives are filled with multiplicities rather than simplicity."

Rx for What Ails You: The Prescribed Seven:

If you, too, have had your rest-bits nibbled away, by multiplicities, take heart. Here's what you can do:

1. Decide that your heart is well-designed, and an excellent teacher. It rests between beats.

2. Determine what might give you rest between the 'beats' of your responsibilities at home, at work, in the community.

3. Consider the possibility to which Mary Oliver invites us:

"You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

4. Give yourself at least temporary relief from twinges of 'good girl/boy' guilt
and let yourself discover what your body and soul love today. This doesn't cost a penny. Write down one finding each day.

5. Design a 'stay-cation' in which you give yourself time, everyday, to focus on what you love, not what you think you love, but what you discover you love.

6. Take a 'stay-cation' every single day, for at least 20 minutes, especially
when it seems impossible. Do it anyway! Practice letting the world run on its own steam during the time. Practice letting go.

7. Turn off your computer, cell phone, yes, e-mail, and all distractions, for at
least 24 hours every single week. Unplug your landline. Notify your friends/family/customers/co-workers etc. that you will be 'out of reach' for the period of your stay-cation. DO NOT tell people you are home!

Remember, Americans have less vacation than all other industrialized countries. As Micky D's told us: 'You deserve a break today!" I double-dog dare you!

I'm happy to report that our adoption of stay-cations are turning things around. After a bit of a scare last year, we were reminded that what we love and value can disappear overnight. Hence, we recommitted to securing our time for solitude and rest most weekends. It is making a very big difference in bringing back greater happiness and harmony. Mahatma Gandhi was right:

"Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do, are in harmony."

I'd love to hear about you, your favorite excuses for why you dare not rest, vacation, unplug, let go; as well as what you are doing that helps replenish your juices, uplift your Spirit, renew your joy. Later this year, I will be telling you about my next upcoming project and book entitled: "The Next Chapter of Your Life." Let's live it today with gusto. Blessings, love and gratitude your way, Cara