Do You Need a Vacation?

So last week, I mentioned that I’ve been dealing with a lot of fatigue, and this has impacted how much writing (and other stuff) I get done. Catching a nasty cold that’s been going around added to it (that’s better now, thanks), but it had been building for several months.

Lately, part of the problem has been that I do not sleep well at night.

I don’t know why–I don’t lead a particularly stressful life. My day job is not stressful. I do work I like, and work with and for nice people who never demand anything unreasonable (I have in past jobs, so believe me, I appreciate this). I don’t have any problems at home, and my family is all well, for the most part.

Actually, I have always been a light sleeper. I’ve never been able to take naps unless I’m sick or have an exceptionally bad migraine. I got kicked out of preschool because I wouldn’t take a nap (hey, I wasn’t sleepy–and what three-year-old wants to lie there and stare at the ceiling?). But lately it’s been a lot worse.

Hotel cat

Our hotel in Puerto Rico had a guard cat!

So when we went to Puerto Rico a couple weeks ago, I was really, really hoping I’d finally get more than 3-4 hours of sleep at night.

It worked. Our hotel room had a wonderful bed–firm, but not hard–and boy, did I sleep. We had a great time otherwise too–did some sightseeing, but also plenty of relaxing. The weather was wonderful–mid-eighties with constant breezes and not humid, and our hotel had lovely little terraces all over–plenty of places to relax and take it easy outside in both sun and shade.

I think what really worked for me though, was getting away from the to-do list, email, worrying about writing, and all the minutiae of everyday life for a while. I did not check email while we were away, even though I could have. I took my netbook, but without expectations of writing (and got some done on the plane!). I did not get on any social media (still haven’t, other than blogs). And I’ve continued to sleep better since returning home. I’m still tired all the time, but it doesn’t seem quite as bad.

So what am I doing to try and maintain that vacation mindset? Here’s what seems to be working for me:

  1. Limit the to-do list to one thing on weekday evenings, two or three things on the weekend.
  2. If the item on the list absolutely must be done that day, do it, but otherwise, if I am too tired, don’t worry about it.
  3. Don’t worry about workouts for now. Once I kick this fatigue, I can get back into a routine.
  4. Write when and if I feel like it. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t espouse this, as it’s not professional or a good way to actually, you know, finish something, but I think pressuring myself was part of my insomnia problem. I can get back into a routine once I deal with the fatigue.
  5. Get off the computer one hour before bedtime (I tried this before vacation and it didn’t seem to help, but it’s not hurting, so….)
  6. Take multivitamins and supplements to make sure nutritional requirements are being met. I’ve been reading up on this, and my doctor of course approved.

It has been years since we went on a real vacation like this. My husband and I decided not to wait so long for the next one. And no, a “staycation” (I hate that word) is not the same–you still have all the stuff that needs doing at home, staring you in the face. There is something about getting away–it needn’t be a big expensive trip, but IMO you do need to get far enough away from work and home and all the stuff that needs attending to there to get into the vacation mindset of not worrying about it. And for heaven’s sake, don’t take work with you unless it’s fun work (like writing) and you don’t pressure yourself to actually do it unless you truly want to.

Which brings up an important point. I see this in people at work–you know, there is always someone who never takes time off, who is always there, often putting in extra time. Some companies will let them do this, but others will make them take time off after a certain amount of time has passed/vacation time accrued. That’s because good managers know that even though someone might love their job and not feel like they’re courting burnout, everyone needs to occasionally take a break. While I did take my vacation time from my day job, I’d been spending it at home, doing stuff there, and it had been almost three years since I got away at all. I think that finally caught up with me. It’s not all that’s behind my fatigue, but it’s definitely part of it.

And as promised last week, here are a few more photos from Puerto Rico:

We toured the Bacardi distillery, where you can get this commemorative photo.

We toured the Bacardi distillery, where you can get this commemorative photo.


We went into the rain forest one day to see the world's largest radio telescope. You may recognize it from James Bond!

We went into the rain forest one day to see the world’s largest radio telescope. You may recognize it from James Bond!


The beach was about a block from our hotel.

The beach was about a block from our hotel.

ROW80Logo175As for ROW80, my goal last week was to focus on being kind to myself. I did pretty well, and even got a little writing done, so that’s a win. This week, I want to continue that, but I also want to at least touch the writing five times, without pushing myself to do a lot. Sometimes just opening the file is all it takes to get going. So we’ll see how that goes.

What about you–do you have trouble making yourself take a break? Do you pressure yourself too much? Do you ever need to just step away from the to-do list? Please share–I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

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