More than a few times in my professional life and ministry, I’ve had people say to me with great pride in their voice, “I haven’t taken a vacation in 20 years!” Usually they treat it like a badge of honor! In response, I just blink and stare, wondering what’s really going on there. I wonder if their spouse and kids feel the same.
In our American workaholic culture of independence and self-reliance, somehow we have bought into the lie that we are heroes if we withhold rest and renewal. We tell ourselves that we are stronger than that. Needing a break is for the weak! Isn’t it?
I’ve witnessed this thinking from pastors who feel heavy demands from their congregation and as a result, are worn out and ready to quit. I’ve heard this from many in the marketplace; from farmers, corporate business leaders, staff in the service industry, to business owners and factory workers. It seems that few work environments are immune to the pressure of working oneself to death; to the point of mental, emotional and physical damage. In fact, recent statistics show that 57% of American workers have significant vacation time left over by the end of the year, with many of those hours not able to roll over to the next fiscal year. What are we doing to ourselves?
Rest and renewal are essential to our soul care, physical bodies and emotional/mental health. Neglecting the opportunity to care for ourselves (and those we love) robs us of the opportunity to connect with God, recharge ourselves and love on those we care for.
I’m not suggesting being financially irresponsible or neglecting important work. I understand that there are seasons when it seems impossible to take time off. However, like other areas of our life, taking time for renewal requires intentionality. We need to choose it, whether or not the time or money is there, no matter if we take one day or a week.
In light of this, explore these four tips on how to be more intentional in planning a meaningful vacation, including what your soul and body need most.
Don’t just let your vacation happen to you. Be intentional. Instead of giving in to the temptation to schedule out every conceivable minute of your vacation, consider taking a proactive role in leveraging this gift from God to fit your specific needs. Sometimes that means saying no to extended family requests or running around every minute to please the kids. Dedicate yourself to turning off the cell phone, social media and email. Set boundaries and go without guilt, knowing you will be better for it later. Avoid using vacation time to check out mentally and emotionally. The point is to focus on the meaningful things, including paying attention to your soul, being mindful of your emotions and allowing yourself to be infused with renewed energy and passion.
Think About What Refreshes Your Soul
Think of the places, activities and even people that refresh your mind, body and soul. Resist planning vacations that drain you or even worse, strain your relationships. Consider planning time off that provides space for mediation, reflection, reading, taking in God’s spectacular nature, journaling, or simply being still in His presence. This may be a challenge for married couples who have opposite interests, but you can still work toward compromises that incorporate soul-nourishing space for both of you. Leave time for soul care, delight in one another, seek adventure, fun and exploration.
Consider Your Vacation Legacy
For those of you with children, this is incredibly important. Although it’s tricky to fit in restful time when you have energetic little ones, know they watch every move you make. They will observe you throughout their lives, witnessing the choices you make even in this specific area. If you are thoughtful in providing space to breathe, reflect, practice gratefulness and enjoy God’s gifts through time off, chances are they will value it the same as adults. Your children will take note that you chose time with them over work and model good soul care during your time off. Encourage them to engage in the same soul care activities with you, because children need down time too. They will cherish these memories, and they will hopefully do the same with their own children.
After Vacation Reflection
It’s so appealing to schedule your vacation right up to the night before you have to go back to work. We want to squeeze every last minute we can out of it. Often we feel the need to take a vacation from the vacation! So here’s the tip: plan one full day of rest at home before you have to be back at work. Spend some time with God to reflect on what He might have established in your soul during your time away. Write in a journal about your vacations. Include meaningful things such as how you felt, what made you feel close to God and others, and how the time replenished you. However you do it, plan so that you head back to work with renewed energy and thankfulness.
Michelle Marx is a regular contributor to Soul Care Collective! Thanks, Michelle!