I was exhausted. Drained of my last reserves. But I still couldn’t rest.
I was leaving in the morning for a trip to Maryland to see my family and there was still too much left to do. It was already 8 pm. I hadn’t even started to pack.
My stress levels were high and I was afraid that my Meniere’s symptoms would flare up during the trip. My Tinnitus was blaring much louder than usual… a bad sign.
I wasn’t able to relax until the plane was in the air.
Fast forward five days and I’m back from what actually ended up being a wonderful trip. I had a great time and got to spend some quality time with my family.
I also feel like my batteries are finally recharged, which is kind of strange because it wasn’t really a relaxing trip in the truest sense of the word. We walked a lot, went out to eat several times, and even went hiking one morning. I pushed myself too hard on more than one occasion and it took a delicate balancing act to keep myself feeling well enough to have a good time.
But disconnecting from my daily routine and responsibilities worked wonders on my stress levels. I really enjoyed myself and was mentally present the entire time.
And it got me thinking. When I’m having a bad day, it’s always so hard to just let myself rest. I always feel so lazy and useless, even when I know deep down that it’s what I need to feel better.
But there are times when I am able to fully disengage and not feel an ounce of laziness. I never feel guilty about resting when I’m on a trip or vacation.
As I flew home, it dawned on me that the best way to rest and not feel lazy just might be to practice the principals of a good vacation.
Fighting the feeling of laziness with a vacation mindset:
There’s a reason people love to travel: it feels amazing to disconnect from your regularly scheduled life for a short while and go on an adventure.
Obviously, laying in bed and watching Netflix when your chronic illness has made you too sick to do anything else is no vacation. But when you look closely at the essence of travel, there are important takeaways that just might help you get the rest you need.
Ultimately, adopting a vacation mindset boils down to four key elements: a change in routine, disconnecting from your responsibilities, having something to look forward to, and self pampering.
It might take planning and some mental jujitsu, but it’s possible to adopt a vacation mindset any time you need to rest and recover.
1) Change something:
The first step in cultivating a vacation mindset is to change something in your environment.
I’ve found that it’s always so much easier to relax when you’re in a situation that feels like you are supposed to be relaxing. We normally feel this on trips, but you can recreate the feeling whenever you need to rest. All you have to do is deviate a little bit from your routine.
It can be as simple as spending time in a different part of your house. If you normally lay in bed when you don’t feel well, lay on the couch instead, or vice versa. Take a few minutes to create a relaxing space that is different from your normal routine. Going outside can help too, if you have a back patio or backyard or any way to relax outside. Being outside in nature can make a huge difference in how you feel, even if it’s only your own backyard.
If possible, you can even make arrangements to stay with a close friend or relative. A complete change in scenery can bring on a vacation mindset much faster. A local hotel can be a wonderful option too, if you can afford it. But really anything that takes you out of your normal routine will do just fine.
“There must be those among whom we can sit down and weep and still be counted as warriors.” – Adrienne Rich
If you do leave the house, just make sure that you bring supplies for every possible outcome and have someone who knows where you are and what you are going through.
2) Disengage from responsibility:
Before I left for my trip, I had a lot of loose ends to tie up. I wanted to get as much of my work and responsibilities taken care of as possible so I wouldn’t have to worry about them while I was gone.
I wasn’t able to get to everything. But I was able to get to most of the things that mattered, and I had at least addressed everything else, closing every one of my open tasks, one way or another.
“You are more powerful than you think you are. Act Accordingly.” – Seth Godin
If you want to be able to rest and not feel lazy, disengaging from your responsibilities can help considerably. When I have unfinished tasks and unaddressed problems looming over me the whole time, I constantly find myself struggling to relax.
And to be clear, you don’t have to finish everything for this to work. But you do need to address each item on your to-do list.
If any of your tasks or responsibilities will only take a couple of minutes to finish, I recommend getting them out of the way whenever possible. For everything else, just make sure to notify any relevant people that you aren’t feeling well and will be taking time off to rest.
Once you have addressed all of your responsibilities, you will be able to get the rest you need without second guessing how you are spending your time.
3) Something to look forward to:
When you have a vacation planned out, often times the excitement and anticipation can be as enjoyable as the trip itself. It gives you something to look forward to, enhancing the days leading up to it. It makes the whole experience that much more special.
I know that there is nothing special or exciting about being too sick to do anything else, but you can apply this principal to make your bad days more bearable.
The best way to do this is to have something you really enjoy ready to go at all times. Maybe for you it’s a great TV show that you’ve been waiting to watch. Maybe it’s a new movie or documentary that you’ve wanted to see. Maybe it’s an exciting new book or audio book. Regardless of what it is for you, the more excited you are to see, or watch, or read, or hear it, the better off you will be when it’s time to rest.
“You can’t calm the storm, so stop trying. What you can do is calm yourself. The storm will pass.” – Timber Hawkeye
It’s a good idea to keep a running list of shows, movies, and books that you are excited about, and to save them for a rest day. Of course, I’m not saying that you should never watch or read anything that you’re looking forward to, but to always keep a few items on standby.
Purposefully enjoying something that you have been waiting for is so much easier to do without feeling lazy, than mindlessly watching TV, or something similar.
4) Pamper yourself:
Most people like to have a good time on vacation and will indulge in the things that make them feel good. Whether that means staying at a nice hotel, getting a massage, eating an extra dessert, or drinking a margarita or two, everyone likes to pamper themselves when they travel.
We can apply this same thinking to our most difficult days. You may not be able to control the fact that you are too sick to do anything other than rest, but surrounding that non-choice are a thousand other choices that you can make. On our worst days, we can choose to prioritize self care over everything else.
“I long to accomplish a noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.” – Helen Keller
I’ll give you a few examples to get you started:
Drink more water than you normally do. Get extra sleep, and if you feel tired, take a nap. Feeling hungry? Have a snack, or if you feel so inclined, some comfort food. Take any medications or supplements that might help you to feel better, or help you to relax. Enjoy a nice hot shower or a bath or even a bubble bath.
Also remember that there are things that you can choose to do to feel better. You can meditate or practice gratitude. You can engage with intellectually stimulating content, like a documentary. You can also occupy yourself with a relaxing hobby like painting, knitting, crafting, coloring, drawing, and more. You may have to rest, but that doesn’t mean that you have to watch TV all day.
You may feel terrible, but you can have a more enjoyable and relaxing day if you take the time to pamper yourself more than you normally would.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: resting is not laziness, it’s medicine, and it doesn’t have to taste bitter going down.
When you live with a chronic illness, there will always be difficult days. It’s a part of the deal and when they happen, it can be difficult to just let yourself rest without feeling lazy or guilty.
But this subtle shift in perspective changes the game all together. Resting becomes something that you’ve planned for. A chance to let go of your responsibilities and enjoy specific shows or movies that you have been waiting to see. An opportunity to pamper yourself in a way that you normally may not have time for.
I encourage you to give this a try. Because resting doesn’t have to be difficult or a struggle. But rather something positive, and a chance to heal yourself at the deepest levels.