Saturday, June 19, 2010

11) The Anguish of Relaxation

o you find relaxing a challenge?  I do.  (Bugs Bunny, “Agony, agony, agony, agony”.)

It’s an acquired skill for me, a self-proclaimed workaholic with a very high energy level, who had always focused on ‘doing’ instead of ‘being’.  One girlfriend broke up with me because she said I had too much energy.  I feel like I missed part of my college and fraternity experience since I held two jobs, one full-time while taking a full course load, lived in the fraternity house, saw family, had a girlfriend, and a full social calendar all over the North East.  When my marriage was on the rocks, the counselor told me to stop for lunch.  It was only then, that I began to focus on Being as well as Doing.

When I got out of college, I bought a time-share in the Poconos because the salesman told me that this way I knew I’d take a vacation at least once a year.  At that point, I started to schedule my vacations.  I thought that I could handle being busy 24/7 but eventually it catches up.  People experience burn-out, overload, not getting it done, not knowing where to start, feeling overwhelmed, getting depressed, becoming anxious, self-medicating, prescribed medications, feeling suicidal, nervous breakdowns, divorce, committing suicide!

Americans don’t vacation enough or take enough breaks.  The world is learning our bad habits (e.g. the Japanese have nervous breakdowns, the Canary Islands has been reducing siesta).  We need to learn from the older societies how to pace ourselves and live for today even if we want to plan for tomorrow.

Americans revolve around time and money.  Peter Lorre has a great line in Bogey’s ‘Beat the Devil', “Time, time; what is time?  The Swiss manufacture it, French hoard it, Italians squander it, Americans say it is money, [the] English say it does not exist.  You know what I say?  I say time is a crook.”

In the 1960’s we were told that we’d soon see a 4-day workweek due to technology; the leisure industry would see massive growth.  Instead, our workweeks increased from 40 hours.  I think it’s Strategic Coach who realized that if we could work 24/7, we still could not get it all done.  Therefore, it’s a matter of smarter, not longer.

Time management is taught by life and business coaches.  We’re told that we need to rest and refresh in order to be smarter.  The brain and our bodies are clearer and we make better decisions, like prioritizing.

We’re supposed to schedule ‘down time’ at the beginning of the calendar quarter because it, otherwise, is subordinated and never executed.

I recommend that your ‘down time’ be about 30% of your days.  This converts to all weekends, Federal Holidays and a one week vacation per calendar quarter.

The problem, for me, becomes settling down.

You suddenly have free time, and you feel like you’re supposed to be doing something!  You get anxious and bored; you argue with close ones.  Moreover, if your vacation is only one-week, you’re often not finally feeling relaxed until the last day!

(This leads to the totally outrageous concept of a two week vacation and eventually to the concept or working remotely.  Why shouldn’t I dress the way I want, set my own schedule, and be where I want to be?  I’ve since designed my business to be portable; when clients call me, they might not know if I’m in Stockholm, Lima, Mexico, the BWI, or the Jersey Shore!)

The tricks that I use include planning & envisioning fun things, having a massage and a cocktail the first day, constantly reminding myself to stay loose and flexible, not planning my time, giving myself permission to sleep, eat, watch TV and be a vegetable.  I bring fun reading and toys/costumes/etc. that support my fun, fantasies, alter-egos, and imagination.  I have an extra cocktail, try new things, and do my favorites; I explore, interact, balance.

I don’t bring business projects, business reading, or engage in business telecommunications, and I don’t check e-mail.

The shift may be a challenge, but it becomes a cool and important one - another healthy life skill.  Try it!  Practice.


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