"Are you an alien freak?" were the words that welcomed me into the first day of my "vacation." Those words didn't cling to the thumping party air as I danced into the wee hours on a costumed cruise or discotheque in Ibiza.
They were the spiky greeting from the TV producer in charge of the shoot. (Confirmation that my iPhone makes me sound like I am visiting from Pluto in certain areas.) Instead of taking a week to commune with nature I had journeyed into the unknown territory of Orange County to shoot a TV pilot called "Life Changers."
Vacations Are For Wimps
I was not alone in working through my time off. Almost 50 percent of small business owners take only major holidays off or take no vacation at all, according to a study by Big Research that surveyed 520 small-business owners. Kari Henley wrote a great post on why Americans are the worst vacationers. A study conducted in 2006 by the Department of Labor confirmed that workers get five days of paid leave after one year of service. Twenty three percent of Americans get no paid vacation. None. Recent studies show that due to fear of job loss even fewer Americans are taking any time off.
Burnt To A Crisp
There are numerous well-known studies that track how vacations keep us both mentally and physically healthy. The 1992 Framingham Heart Study conducted by Boston University showed that not taking vacations was particularly risky for women. It was a significant risk factor that contributed to heart disease. Vacations have have been shown to cure burnout which is the final stage of chronic stress. Humans need time away from stressors. That time away helps to replenish emotional resources. Taking a break leads to sense of mastery and optimism as well better job performance. "Studies have also shown that time off increases positive mood, a sense of initiative, competence, and that the more leisure activities you're involved in the higher your life satisfaction" say life balance expert, Joe Robinson.
I would love to wave my magic wand and give each and every one of us a month in the county, Perhaps if I really were an alien freak I could use my extraterrestrial powers and have all of America join in a playful recess for the month of August. Hmm. That doesn't seem too likely.
As I wave good-bye to summer, I realize how very precious and restorative a vacation is. So I decided to make my weekend into a "staycation". If you aren't taking a one, two or three week vacation, it is essential that you give yourself a weekend "staycation" at least once a quarter.
Here are tips from my weekend "staycation". I can't wait to hear yours!
1. Take A Vacation....From Your PDA
One of the fastest ways to unwind is to take a vacation from your PDA. As a culture we are accustomed to being "wired" all day every day. I put the phone in a kitchen drawer.
2. Is Your Name Martha?
Unless your name is Martha Stewart and you just love, love, love to organize drawers do not turn your "staycation" into a chore and errand festival. (I had a client whose hobby was ironing -so I know that those folks are out there!) If you know that you are more relaxed with a tidy home take the weekend before your weekend "staycation" to clean.
3. The 12 Steps
Even when on holiday many Americans only take a 'semi vacation". They lug their laptop to the beach and I have seen them talking on their cell phones while taking a hike. They allow themselves to work "1 or 2 hours" a day. If you aren't fully disconnected from your work, you aren't allowing yourself to truly replenish. A semi vacation isn't the real vacation your body needs.
How do you avoid that? The 12 Step Rule.
Take 12 steps away from your computer, blackberry, iPhone. If you can't take the 12 steps away from your computer for two days...you may be addicted to the over stimulation it represents.
Take a real break for two days a month.
4. It's Nap Time.
"After the going's been tough the tough get horizontal." If you are like most Americans you have a sleep debt. Take some vacation time to catch up on your zzzzzz's. Studies show that lack of sleep is a huge stressor for your body. It feels luxurious to nap when your body asks for sleep.
5. People First
Is spending time with friend pretty much the last thing on your To Do list? Now is the time to see how much richer and fuller your life is with the folks you enjoy. Potlucks, bike rides, hikes there may even be free concerts or gallery events in your town.
6. Get International
If you can't leave town, find the international flavor where you live. This is one of my personal favorites! Eat a type of food you've never eaten before. Indonesian (my friend Annette and I had no clue of what we had ordered), Bulgarian, Ethiopian and Hungarian are some of the offerings in Los Angeles. Regardless of the city, I bet there is a sort of food experience that would be adventurous.
If you really want to feel like you have left town, go to a foreign market. I ventured into Asian warehouse market in a neighborhood called Little Saigon. It was like taking a trip to the Far East. I walked down entire grocery aisles of unknown foods, fruits and frozen treats. I brought home melons, pink rice like concoctions and Happy Bo coconut cookies. Yum!
7. Dive Into Difference
Whatever your weekend rituals, break them. Do something different. (Always a mega stress buster.) If you take a walk in the forest, go somewhere else. Let the new location surprise you. I did this and went for my walk on a different beach. A family of dolphins "welcomed me." I walked along side them as they swam south for almost 45 minutes. Then I dove in to swim with them.
Eli Davidson is a nationally recognized motivational speaker and executive coach. Her book, "Funky to Fabulous: Surefire Success Stories for the Savvy, Sassy and Swamped", (Oak Grove Publishing) has won three national book awards. Eli is a reinvention catalyst, who can transform your professional and personal life from Funky to Fabulous with her ten, trademarked Turnaround Techniques that create rapid and remarkable results. Check out her blog at http://funkytofabulous.blogspot.com/