Whether you’re a beach bum or a ski bunny, a great outdoorswoman or a staycation king, nothing will ruin your time away from the office more than worrying about work. The anxiety can creep in before you’ve even set up your email away message, but there are a few ways to set your mind at ease before you dip your toes into the sea.
“Going on vacation is what I call good stress, but it’s stress nonetheless,” says Cindy Davis, M.S.N., A.P.R.N., FNP-C, an educational specialist for behavioral health at Levindale. “Learning how to go with the flow in times of anxiety is an invaluable skill to learn.”
When we think of the phrase “fight or flight,” we imagine our prehistoric ancestors chucking their spears at woolly mammoths, or sprinting away from saber-toothed tigers. However, those of us who are desk jockeys or weekend warriors are still hard-wired to experience stress in similar ways (even if that stress doesn’t involve us ending up as the blue plate special). Ray Tringa, an L.P.N. at Levindale, explains that our bodies can produce adrenaline that will give us extra energy; this energy can give us the boost we need to outrun a pack of wolves or simply take on a few added tasks before boarding our flights or loading up our cars.
“Weeks before I leave, in between daily duties, I make packets and transportation arrangements for Courtland Gardens residents who will have medical appointments while I’m away. Having everything ready for them makes me happy,” says LouAnn Waddel, a unit tech. “My motto: Keep it moving no matter what.”
For Penny Kilmon, who works in the admissions office at Courtland Gardens, organization is a gal’s best friend. “I use a Google calendar that is color-coded to prioritize so I can see exactly what I need to do. I also share the calendar with my co-workers while I’m off for seamless transitions.”*
Just as there’s never too much of a good thing, there’s never too much planning in advance. “I make a lot of notes for the person who is going to be doing double duty,” says Deshawn Johnson at the Krieger Eye Institute at Sinai. “I want her to feel confident while she’s filling in and I hope she does the same for me when the roles are reversed.” Andrew Green from EVS at Northwest Hospital depends on his co-workers to keep his stress level down when he comes back. He trusts his peers to take care of his workload with the same care that they take care of their own.
Dwayne Scott, who works in Media Services at Northwest Hospital, will devote a day or so to making sure that all the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed before turning out the light in his office. “If I’m traveling on a Wednesday, I take the Tuesday before off to tie up loose ends so I can enjoy the rest of my vacation.”
If you’re more of a tortoise than a hare, and slow and steady is your creed, you can keep a generic list of to-dos before you take off: recording an out-of-office voicemail, putting up an email response, tidying your desk or workstation, and leaving instructions for anyone filling in. “As I think of things that will require attention while I’m away, I jot down them down. Then I pre-plan ways to make sure they get done,” adds Dorothy Deshazo from Human Resoures at Levindale.
As if this wasn’t enough to fret over, we must also consider the homefront. “Staying on top of my vacation budget and my packing means less stress at work,” says Donna Ivy, a ward clerk at Levindale. Pam Monger from the ERC at Northwest Hospital adds that nourishing yourself makes a huge difference. Even though fast food didn’t earn its name for nothin’, taking the time to eat well and exercise can ensure that you’re at your healthiest and happiest and truly able to enjoy your time away.
Still, it’s no secret that our minds have “minds of their own,” and our thoughts might wander back to the job. Smartphones and laptops and iPads (oh my!) keep us plugged in, even when we’re roughin’ it. There’s no need to play tug-of-war with yourself: If you must check your work email, just do it once a day.
Besides, we’ll be punching in again soon enough. After we’ve braved the slopes or caught some sun, slept under the stars or enjoyed some uninterrupted time at home, we can experience a real letdown. Termira Jones from the Krieger Eye Institute at Sinai has an interesting way to cope; she employs the inverse idea of Dwayne’s pre-vacay strategy. “When I travel, I like to get home a day before I’m going back to work. It helps if I have jet lag, and I also have a chance to do laundry, shopping and run errands without feeling rushed.”
For others of us, hunkering down and plowing through everything that’s piled up is the best way to get back into our groove.“I shut my office door the day I come back from vacation,” explains Linda Edwards, who works in the Northwest Hospital Badging Office. “Co-workers knock if what they need is important, but this cuts down on distractions until I’m caught up on my work.”
Though sometimes catching up can feel like dropping into the middle of a marathon, Cindy reminds us that it’s very important to have time away from work: “We need it to feel revitalized so we don’t burn out.” Sandy Jamison from Community Health Education sums it up best: “Don’t come back from vacation needing a vacation.”
*To see what the calendar can do, just log onto Google.com/calendar.
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