by Don Ingwerson
It’s summertime and the living is not always so easy.
Consequently, many people are looking forward to, or heading out on, a summer vacation.
The desire for such a break is to be expected since jobs are the leading cause of stress – according to Dr. Paul J. Rosch, Chairman of the Board of the American Institute of Stress. He told the Atlantic that, “work-related anxiety has multiplied in recent years.”
But could taking a break be just a temporary answer to workplace anxiety? It seems so according to a recent study. It’s true that most research indicates vacations are vital to good health and to work productivity – especially if vacationers don’t take office work along with them. But this particular study showed that while positive, healthy emotions were higher for those planning a vacation than for those not taking one, there was no difference between the two groups during the post-vacation period. This suggests that the pressures of the post catch-up activity soon took away the brief lift received from the actual vacation.
Clearly, taking a vacation is not always a stress reliever and sometimes can even create additional tension for the vacationer. So are there other ways to find freedom from work-related stress?
Yes. At one point in my career, I had accrued over two hundred days of unused vacation by the time I left a job. As strange as it may sound, I was fine with not taking advantage of those days even though I wasn’t compensated for them.
So why would I make such a decision about my use of vacation time, when it’s understood that vacations are important to health?
Maybe it has to do with one’s view of health and work. It’s not that my job was free of stressful situations. Working in the education sector and being responsible for hundreds of thousands of students, I had plenty of those to deal with! And I certainly enjoyed the vacations I had with my family when I did take time off. But I found that heading out on a long break was not the only way to unwind and find solutions to tension and stress. I found I could also take spontaneous mental “vacations.”
By that I mean each day I found regular quiet times to prayerfully contemplate ideas from the Scriptures, such as: “Through God I can do what I need to do. I can do all things through Christ, which strengthens me.”
To me, Christ is more than a person related to a particular religion. Christ signifies the universal presence and activity of God’s love, which was clearly seen in the healing work Jesus did. Knowing that I can rely on that same divine Love to walk with me (as one of my favorite hymns puts it), calms my thought in the face of challenging situations, and helps me find needed solutions to any situation.
To me, then, health is more the result of cultivating spiritual wellbeing than of following a prescribed work/vacation schedule. Spiritual awareness leads to harmony, productivity, and joy and such attributes keep tension and pressure from dominating and restricting thought.
That was the experience of a man interviewed by the Christian Science Sentinel about a time when he came back from vacation to find his in-tray piled much too high. After praying about it overnight, he saw how he could indeed expect do all things through the strength that comes from Christ. He concluded: “All the feelings of stress and anxiety were replaced with a deep sense of peace. I went back to work the next day with a whole new attitude about how I was going to accomplish my tasks. And step by step, I did!”
Maybe nurturing a stress-free work experience is a little like building your own summertime ice cream sundae. Add in all those ingredients that work best for you by remembering to care for mind, body, and spirit in your planning effort – and why not add in some of those prayerful pauses on your daily rounds at work too?
That’s a recipe for success with its own sweet reward!