Do You Need a Vacation?

So last week, I mentioned that I’ve been dealing with a lot of fatigue, and this has impacted how much writing (and other stuff) I get done. Catching a nasty cold that’s been going around added to it (that’s better now, thanks), but it had been building for several months.

Lately, part of the problem has been that I do not sleep well at night.

I don’t know why–I don’t lead a particularly stressful life. My day job is not stressful. I do work I like, and work with and for nice people who never demand anything unreasonable (I have in past jobs, so believe me, I appreciate this). I don’t have any problems at home, and my family is all well, for the most part.

Actually, I have always been a light sleeper. I’ve never been able to take naps unless I’m sick or have an exceptionally bad migraine. I got kicked out of preschool because I wouldn’t take a nap (hey, I wasn’t sleepy–and what three-year-old wants to lie there and stare at the ceiling?). But lately it’s been a lot worse.

Hotel cat

Our hotel in Puerto Rico had a guard cat!

So when we went to Puerto Rico a couple weeks ago, I was really, really hoping I’d finally get more than 3-4 hours of sleep at night.

It worked. Our hotel room had a wonderful bed–firm, but not hard–and boy, did I sleep. We had a great time otherwise too–did some sightseeing, but also plenty of relaxing. The weather was wonderful–mid-eighties with constant breezes and not humid, and our hotel had lovely little terraces all over–plenty of places to relax and take it easy outside in both sun and shade.

I think what really worked for me though, was getting away from the to-do list, email, worrying about writing, and all the minutiae of everyday life for a while. I did not check email while we were away, even though I could have. I took my netbook, but without expectations of writing (and got some done on the plane!). I did not get on any social media (still haven’t, other than blogs). And I’ve continued to sleep better since returning home. I’m still tired all the time, but it doesn’t seem quite as bad.

So what am I doing to try and maintain that vacation mindset? Here’s what seems to be working for me:

  1. Limit the to-do list to one thing on weekday evenings, two or three things on the weekend.
  2. If the item on the list absolutely must be done that day, do it, but otherwise, if I am too tired, don’t worry about it.
  3. Don’t worry about workouts for now. Once I kick this fatigue, I can get back into a routine.
  4. Write when and if I feel like it. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t espouse this, as it’s not professional or a good way to actually, you know, finish something, but I think pressuring myself was part of my insomnia problem. I can get back into a routine once I deal with the fatigue.
  5. Get off the computer one hour before bedtime (I tried this before vacation and it didn’t seem to help, but it’s not hurting, so….)
  6. Take multivitamins and supplements to make sure nutritional requirements are being met. I’ve been reading up on this, and my doctor of course approved.

It has been years since we went on a real vacation like this.Β My husband and I decided not to wait so long for the next one. And no, a “staycation” (I hate that word) is not the same–you still have all the stuff that needs doing at home, staring you in the face. There is something about getting away–it needn’t be a big expensive trip, but IMO you do need to get far enough away from work and home and all the stuff that needs attending to there to get into the vacation mindset of not worrying about it. And for heaven’s sake, don’t take work with you unless it’s fun work (like writing) and you don’t pressure yourself to actually do it unless you truly want to.

Which brings up an important point. I see this in people at work–you know, there is always someone who never takes time off, who is always there, often putting in extra time. Some companies will let them do this, but others will make them take time off after a certain amount of time has passed/vacation time accrued. That’s because good managers know that even though someone might love their job and not feel like they’re courting burnout, everyone needs to occasionally take a break. While I did take my vacation time from my day job, I’d been spending it at home, doing stuff there, and it had been almost three years since I got away at all. I think that finally caught up with me. It’s not all that’s behind my fatigue, but it’s definitely part of it.

And as promised last week, here are a few more photos from Puerto Rico:

We toured the Bacardi distillery, where you can get this commemorative photo.

We toured the Bacardi distillery, where you can get this commemorative photo.


We went into the rain forest one day to see the world's largest radio telescope. You may recognize it from James Bond!

We went into the rain forest one day to see the world’s largest radio telescope. You may recognize it from James Bond!


The beach was about a block from our hotel.

The beach was about a block from our hotel.

ROW80Logo175As for ROW80, my goal last week was to focus on being kind to myself. I did pretty well, and even got a little writing done, so that’s a win. This week, I want to continue that, but I also want to at least touch the writing five times, without pushing myself to do a lot. Sometimes just opening the file is all it takes to get going. So we’ll see how that goes.

What about you–do you have trouble making yourself take a break? Do you pressure yourself too much? Do you ever need to just step away from the to-do list? Please share–I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

11 Responses to \

  1. I’m so glad you had a nice vacation. Well done! It’s been a year since I’ve taken time off of work and over two years since I’ve gotten more than one state away from my home in MI. Ugh. I need to get away. We have started plans for next year. I need it to happen, fingers crossed.
    I hope you find a way through the fatigue. My MIL is dealing with that right now. I haven’t been sleeping as well, but I think that’s because I haven’t been getting enough exercise. Here’s to hoping we figure it out this round. πŸ™‚

  2. Once the kids moved out, we take vacations all the time! Even small weekend getaways. I love not having to worry about CHORES! Not that I do them, but they stare at me and make me feel guilty.

    It was nice talking with you yesterday at the meeting. And tomorrow I’m doing that blog hop thingy you chose me for, so make sure you check it out!

  3. Thanks, SJ! For a long time, I thought exercise was the issue, but when I got it, it never seemed to help. Hope you get a chance to take a nice vacation soon!

    Stacy, it was fun talking to you, too! I’m looking forward to reading your writing process post. And you are sooooo right about chores–that’s why staycations don’t work!

  4. Ah, you had a vacation too. I’m glad to hear that you’re getting better sleep. Pressure and fatigue can do a number on you if you’re not careful. But it certainly sounds like you’re taking Kait’s words to heart.

  5. I am so happy that you and hubby got a chance to get away. Jennette, we all need rest. We push ourselves all the time. We pack too much into one day. Sometimes it’s necessary and other times, we need to put things on the to do list for tomorrow. I hear ya on the sleep issue. If you don’t get enough sleep, boy does it make it rough to concentrate or write period. I hope you feel better soon! And thanks so much for stopping by my blog today. I’m going to steal your grandfathers rhyme. πŸ™‚

  6. Nita and I finish our degrees at the same time next year. We plan to take a vacation to Put in Bay to celebrate.

    We have done the staycation, mainly for financial reasons, but the secret is to actually go out and do stuff. Since we do the all the household chores (except dishes and trash, which get done when they need to be done) on weekends, we can go out and have fun during the week guilt-free.

    However, we both get so busy that one or both of us will hit a wall on the weekends, and just shut down. Sometimes, your body will simply say that it needs a break and not give you a choice in the matter.

  7. You’re spot on about needing to step away sometimes, Jennette. Being a notoriously light sleeper myself, I’ve found that “getting away” often is the only cure (albeit temporary) for that constant edge of fatigue that hovers over me. (Though an interesting thing I’ve noticed, at least in a few people I’ve discussed this with, including myself, is that sleeping a full 7 hours a night doesn’t necessarily translate to feeling rested. Often I feel more tired and worn afterward… and the sleep isn’t steady or “real” feeling.)

    Your vacation photos look delightful though! So glad you were able to get out and do this. May it nourish your spirit for many days to come.

  8. *hugs* Hope the vacation mentality creeps into everyday life and helps the insomnia soon! Our garden helps me a lot to keep from stressing out. But I also love the big vacations, which we do every year or two. The opportunities for amazing vacations that don’t cost an arm and a leg are really good from Europe — and I try to take advantage of that whenever financially possible. πŸ™‚

  9. Ryan, thanks!

    Thanks, Karen! So glad to see you back in blogland again. πŸ™‚

    Jim, I think that’s what’s been happening to me–hit a wall and just stop. Put-in-Bay will be great!

    Eden, I have the same problem–I can get a full night’s sleep and still be tired. That’s how it’s been since I got home from vacation, but getting sleep is at least the first step in dealing with it.

    Ruth, thanks! We usually go a couple states away, and that’s a good way to get way and not spend too much, though not as nice as Puerto Rico. Europe would be great.

  10. Puerto Rico is lovely – I’m so glad you got to go. I totally agree, we all need to get away. It really helps to re-focus and re-energize. Not to mention it teaches us to appreciate other cultures and other environments.

    I share your sleeping problem. Usually 2-3 times a week, I’ll wake up around 3:00 or 3:30 in the morning and just lie there, thinking of everything under the sun. I don’t even try to go back to sleep because that just causes frustration. I get a lot of “head writing” done on those nights, but it does make for some sleepy days too. I am not a nap taker either, unless I completely exhausted or sick. If someone finds me sleeping in the middle of the day, get me to a doctor because something is wrong with me.

    I’m glad you got to get away and I’m glad you’ve re-grouped with new goals. Not get to it, Girl!

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

  11. Patricia, I get that “head writing” too, but I seldom get anything usable from it!

    One of the things I loved about Puerto Rico was getting to experience a different culture without having to worry about different laws or currency!