Is Taking A Vacation More Stressful Than It's Worth?

Kathleen Byars | November 14, 2017

Back in 2000, I was a frequent flier. I clocked enough miles each year that my favored airline, British Airlines, awarded me a first-class trip anywhere in the world BA serviced.

I chose Hawaii. Maui to be exact.

As an international marketer, I frequented countries all across Europe, Asia, and the former Soviet Union.

An archipelago of extinct volcanoes seemed to be just the reprieve necessary for a stressed-out, overworked, and “always-on” executive.

Sleeping on a beach immune to the constant din of emails, conference calls, and multi-lingual presentations sounded absolutely sublime.

I set my departure date for Thanksgiving week in order to minimize the impact on my work schedule.

In corporate America, the only thing worse than not having time off, is, well, actually taking time off.

To manage the impending “vacation-inbox-multiplier” that typically accompanied most time away from the office, I decided Thanksgiving week would be slightly less chaotic, even if half of my team didn’t celebrate this particular holiday.

I booked the trip in August.

By September, I should have been beachwear shopping. I put it off another month.

By October, I should have called the dog sitter and confirmed the dates. I delayed.

By November, I should have arranged for the house sitter and held the mail. I never did.

The Monday of Thanksgiving week, I was not headed to Hawaii. As British Airways took off from DFW airport with what I am sure was a very full flight, I was not on board.

I was sitting on the floor of my TV room, dressed in pajamas, petting my dog.

I was simply too exhausted to get on that plane.

Can you relate?

I didn’t care about ancient volcanoes. I didn’t care about 5-star resort hotels. I didn’t even care about the thousands of dollars of free travel I had just flushed down the drain.

I missed my home, I missed my dog, I missed my daughter. I didn’t want to fly. I wanted to sleep.

So that’s what I did.

I spent the entire first day in my PJs watching TV.

The next day, I went grocery shopping without feeling rushed.

Every morning I walked my dog without checking my wristwatch or worrying I was late.

I baked pumpkin pies and sugar cookies and curled up with my daughter on the couch watching old movies way past bedtime.

I was sick and tired of being sick and tired and for one glorious week, I had a reprieve from the stressed out life I was living.

I wish back then I had known that I was burning myself out.

I thought I had to keep up this breakneck speed in order to survive at work. I thought my company required my absolute commitment. I thought if I kept pushing harder and harder, I would eventually “arrive” and be able to relax and sit down.

I bought into the Corporate America myth because I thought that’s what I had to do to be a success.

I didn’t understand that I could be ambitious and successful AND live a calm, comfortable life that where I could connect deeply with my children, enjoy quality time with my spouse, and most of all care for myself and my own needs.

I thought a trade-off was required and I was scared to death that if I let up off the gas in my career, I would have to give up everything I worked so hard for.

I was wrong.

And once I made the decision that a successful career and a calm, carefree life were POSSIBLE… I started to make it so.

It was a hell of a lot easier than I thought.

Once I made my mind up, the rest was learning how to get out of my own way. Quiet my mind. Turn off the stress and worry. And learn how to manage my career in such a way that I delivered powerful value at the office without having to give up space and time I wanted for myself and my family.

Do you know what I mean?

So aloha from Hawaii! Thanks as always for allowing me to share the journey.

And remember…anything is possible. You can’t have it all…but you can have what you want!

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