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Post-Holiday Blues? Take Your Vacation Back to Your Regularly Scheduled Life

Perhaps, like me, you had the good fortune to take a break from your regularly scheduled life over the holidays. Without all of your usual responsibilities you probably had more time. More time to spend with family and friends. More time to engage with activities. (No matter if that activity was skiing, reading, or binge-watching “Keeping up with the Kardashians.” You will not find a drop of judgment here.)

And, perhaps now that you are back to work, you’re feeling some post-holiday blues.

Beyond the additional time for people and activities, though, this unfettered time allows us to move in our more natural way. This presents us with the opportunity to see something about ourselves that perhaps we don’t always remember when we are busy with our scheduled lives.

If you took a holiday break, I wonder what you noticed about your experience. What did you gravitate to? What did you love? How did you differ from your usual way of being?

During my vacation, I was reminded how much I love to attend fully to everything that I do, even those activities that I usually try to simply check off my list, like household chores. I’m often trying to get those done so I can focus my attention on what I typically consider to be my life—-my work, my relationships, my personal practices. But over vacation, I noticed how much I enjoyed not simply going through the motions, but actually enjoying the movements themselves.

I particularly noticed this at mealtimes. I liked being in my kitchen, standing at the cutting board preparing food. I enjoyed watching vegetables sizzle on the stove and placing the meal on the plate. Eating was good, but I couldn’t believe that I enjoyed the cleaning up just as much! There’s something so utterly satisfying about completing a task from beginning to end, and fully engaging with each step along the way with integrity and care.

Standing at the sink, I felt the warmth of the water. I sensed the scraps of food washing away from the plate. I saw the sparkling clean dish emerge from the suds. Though part of my attention was on the activity of washing, another part of my attention was on my internal experience. I was feeling present, joyful, contented.

I know. This sounds manufactured at best and like a bold-face lie at worst. But I swear I’m not making this s**t up. I’m just as surprised as you are. Believe me, two weeks ago I would have told you that washing dishes is one of my top three least favorite chores. But, there I was: loving the dishes.

Perhaps, like me, you were sad about the end of the holiday break. Not because you don’t enjoy your work. (If you’re anything like me, you actually very much love what you are lucky enough to be paid to do.) But because you felt the loss of the precious time to reconnect with something you love.

I wonder what you enjoyed during your vacation and what associated internal experience you anticipated having to leave behind. For me, I was sad about the idea that I would have to return to a schedule that doesn’t leave time for me to be besotted by my kitchen sponge and my garbage disposal.

But, I soon realized I could take my way of being during vacation back to my regular life. As I walked home from boot camp Monday morning after the holidays, ready to start my first day back, I reminded myself of my rediscovered love: attending fully to the moment. I may not have as much time to gaze at the brilliant redness of that bell pepper or to arrange those green beans artistically on my plate, but whatever time I do have, I reminded myself I could soak in it, like a warm bath.

This is not so much a standard New Year’s resolution as it is a reminder of a truth about myself. I don’t have a plan to attend to each and every moment of my day (exhausting!). Nor do I intend to tell a mean little voice in my head to chastise myself whenever I get distracted (ouch!). I simply want to remind myself of what I love.

vacation-red-umbrellas-psyched-in-san-francisco-sizedInterested in taking your vacation back to your regularly scheduled life? Here’s a DIY project for you.

  • Ask yourself these two questions—what did I enjoy about my holiday break? How was I being in those moments?
  • Come up with a simple, but meaningful phrase that captures that way of being.
  • Use that phrase each morning to remind yourself of that way of being.
  • Don’t try to do anything differently or be anything different.
  • Notice what happens.
  • (Optional) Let me know what you observe.

Now, go enjoy your regularly scheduled life.

Brett Penfil

Brett Penfil

Brett Penfil, MFT, is a psychoanalytically-oriented psychotherapist (MFC #48447) in San Francisco. She works with individuals, couples, and business partners.

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