My family and I went down to the Outer Banks in North Carolina for our family vacation, but there was a twist. Our teenage son invited his friend and our daughter invited a friend along as well. Four kids and two adults for a week at the beach. You might think that it was a crazy idea, but all turned out well.
Having four children along with us on the trip added a different perspective. My wife and I had a chance to see our children get along with others, and for a week, we were a family of four.
The funniest thing I learned was trying to get all of them ready to go into the car at the same time. We'd want to head out to dinner and one child was ready. When I'd go get the others, I'd come back and the first child was gone. It was as though they had conspired to never be ready and in the same room at the same time!
But what does a trip to the Outer Banks have to do with you?
I learned an important lesson while I was away. I can't always be "on." I can't always be plugged in with work, social media, and writing. I need to take time to read, wander, and relax. I know that this might sound like really simple advice, but modern life is often filled with rushing from one thing to the next.
While in Nags Head to see the sunset, my family and I stopped at the SeaGreen Gallery. The plan was to stop there for a bit, head to dinner, and then see the sun set at the top of Jockey's Ridge (big sand dunes). Well, Mother Nature, would have none of that. A thunderstorm rolled through and lasted for a good hour. Our plans were thrown off and sunset was a washout due to the clouds and rain. However, the bad weather was a blessing in disguise. The SeaGreen Gallery is filled with everyday items made into art. It's a beautiful store. And like a fairy portal to another world, the backyard is filled with flowers, plants and all sorts of animals (turtles, coy fish, bunnies and even an iguana).
We took our time and walked through the backyard and I stumbled across some amazing pieces of art. Not only was I inspired by what I saw, but a sense of peace and calm washed over me as the rain came down in buckets. I finished looking outside and came in to really spend time looking at all the treasures in the store. I gave myself permission to unwind. To relax. To be.
I'm often on autopilot going from one thing to the next. I wear my work hat, then my family man's hat, and then my author hat. How often do any of us really take a moment to pay attention to where we are at the moment and to take in the beauty around us?
Many years ago a former colleague and friend at work and I had a conversation about the need to take time to be with your partner. To really relax and spend time. When you're married, each person tends to get stuck in their role, helping to keep the house going. There are kids to feed, to get clothes for, bathe, help, listen, cleaning to do. Sure, that changes as the kids get older, but again, there's the busy rush of daily life. We go, go, go!
My friend told me how important it is to make time to spend quality time with your partner. Now that I look back on the advice, the same bit of wisdom can apply to people who are not married as well. How often do we spend quality time with ourselves? To really look around and hear our own thoughts.
When I told my friend that I liked her idea, but money was tight and that I couldn't always go out to dinner with my wife or go to the movies, she told me the importance of having "patio nights." It's a simple concept. No matter if you're married, in a relationship with someone, or not, just go outside and relax. Spend time talking with your friend, or if alone, let your thoughts wander.
During my time in the Outer Banks, I did that. I took some time to walk on the beach and just let my thoughts be. Yes, that can be scary at times if you have a big decision to make or if you're going through a difficult time. But I have found that a healthy balance between worrying and repressing to be best. Needlessly cycling through and worrying about this and that has never been helpful to me. Neither has burying my feelings.
But over time, I've learned that it's good to admit how I feel: Sad, happy? Stuck? Overwhelmed? What exactly is going through my mind?
I give myself a few minutes to think whatever, but then roll back and focus on the positive. I've been known to be a worrywart, so I need to make certain that I don't fall into that natural path. It takes a concerted effort to turn my thoughts around, and to see the greater good around me.
Going to the SeaGreen Gallery helped me. As did a walk on the beach. But now that I'm back at work and struggling to make time to write, the lesson I learned while away is still relevant.
I need to take time to relax.
That could be reading, a walk, listening to music, and a whole host of other activities.
When on vacation, I stayed off Facebook all week (and loved it). I put an out of office message for my work as well as for my author email account. Yes, I did do some editing on my next book, but I kept the work constrained to the time before the rest of the family was up.
Unplugging and taking some time to relax has helped. I've a busy fall ahead and the lesson I learned to make time for myself was an important one.
And what about you? When you're stressed out, have limited time and money, what do you do to unwind?
Leave a comment below to let me know.
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