August is typically a very slow, quiet month for me. Everyone is out on their summer vacation, the office is nearly empty, and my work load is low. But this August was different and by the time my own vacation approached, I felt overwhelmed and overloaded. There was a lot of work I didn’t have time to complete and I knew there would be more waiting for me when I got back. There were a few moments when I seriously considered canceling my vacation. But I didn’t. I packed my bags, and piled into a minivan with my husband, our best friends, two dogs, and supplies for the week. We hit the road to Iowa! The first two days I responded to emails and stressed about all the work I wasn’t doing. The morning of day three, when I woke in the Badlands to bison rolling in the dirt, it hit me: I needed a time out.
As a child I got a time out when I did something I wasn’t supposed to. My parents sent me to my room to cool off and think about my actions. This is not a practice I’ve self-employed often but like kids can get wrapped up in emotion and mischievousness, I had become trapped by the stress of the daily grind, to-do lists, seemingly endless emails, and deadlines.
The very important work I do every day to end domestic violence can seemed infinite. The idea of vacation was grand but when it came down to it, it was hard to take. I’m not alone. A lot of Americans don’t receive vacation benefits, and those who do often don’t take it, even though it’s clear that taking a break can reduce stress and mitigate burn out. I’m part of a movement that promotes self-care all the time, but I wasn’t taking time to care for myself.
Something very powerful and liberating happened to me when I told myself to take a time out. I calmed down, thought about what I wanted to be doing, and then I enjoyed every moment. I swam in algae-saturated lakes, watched friends get married, ate ice cream at Mt. Rushmore, and sat on a giant Jackalope. Today is my first day back at work and I have a ton of work on my plate (including this blog post). But after putting myself in time out, I feel more enthusiastic and determined than ever to be part of this work on ending domestic violence.