Taking a Break, Really

Elizabeth A Morton Wildlife Refuge Dunes

One of the most memorable moments of my career was when a supervisor of mine forced me to take a break — to take a three-week vacation. At the time, the workaholic New Yorker in me could not fathom even taking a week off. I remember thinking, ‘How could someone who was so needed at their job take that much time off? How will they get by without me?’ Long weekends and occasional days sprinkled throughout the year were my norm.

I remember our conversation as if it was yesterday. The then general manager at the Jerusalem Hilton, Ashely Spencer, asked me when I was taking my annual vacation, and I let him know I was going to fit in a long weekend before the end of the year. Ashley shared that he encouraged all of his direct reports on executive teams to take at least three consecutive weeks off, “The first week you’re thinking about what’s on your desk. The middle week is your only true break, because the last week you’re starting to think about work, again.”

I had no choice. I took three weeks off, and it was exactly as Ashley said. At the end of my vacation, I felt refreshed and ready to dive back into work.

While most of us in the U.S., especially in New York, will not be fortunate enough to be encouraged to take more than a week off at a time, this experience taught me the importance of real breaks and the importance of ongoing self-care.

Taking a break isn’t just for vacations. It’s setting aside time every week to relax and recharge. It’s infusing micro-breaks into our daily routines. It’s properly devoting time to healing and recovery. Breaks look and feel differently to each of us. What helps you relax may cause me stress, and vice versa.

I’m about to take some time off to take care of a medical issue, and I’ve decided to embrace Ashely’s wisdom. Even when we nurse a physical injury, we know our mind and spirit influence our recovery. I prepared for my absence as best as possible. Now, it’s time to take care of me. Taking a break from stressors, while focusing on rest, relaxation, and what fills my life with positivity will be the best recipe for recovery.