When I asked a colleague to cover my patient in-box for my vacation last week, she said, "Of course. Hitting the reset button is very beneficial."
I've never thought of vacation in those terms. According to researchers, the blissful effects of a vacation wear off within days to weeks. (1) I've always considered vacation as little more than a brief blip of respite among a mostly hectic, busy life.
I've been thinking about her comment a lot during this past week off, though. Perhaps I've been thinking about vacation incorrectly. What if vacation could be more than just a time to escape?
What if vacation could help to reset us back to that best, brightest version of ourselves?
Like most others in medicine, I don't mind working hard. It's the price I pay to have the incredible privilege of caring for other human beings. Most days, I truly enjoy what I do.
But the constant stream of responsibility and worry and stress adds up. By the time my husband and I left last week, I was struggling to find the energy to truly give it my all at work. The enthusiastic, committed teacher and doctor in me was worn out.
So, last week, I made a conscious effort to reset. I lived in the moment and let all of those pressures go. I ate and slept and toured. I basked in the temporary release.
And, unlike prior last-Sunday-nights-of-the-vacation, I am ready to return. Oh, I know, there'll be a big pile of mail and journals and patient issues to sort through waiting on my desk. The usual busy-ness of the day will be compounded by catching up on e-mail and office events.
But, this time, I'm ready. I have the mental and physical energy to put the best version of myself out there. Vacation doesn't have to be just a break; it can be a chance for a fresh, new start.
I hit the reset button, and it feels good.
(1) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/article-2021473/The-health-effects-holidays-wear-just-weeks--breaks-say-experts.html, http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=111887591