I didn’t open my laptop for 2 weeks. Here’s what I learnt…

Recently I went to NYC on a holiday. Now, this was lifetime dream, dream come true, once in a lifetime kind of thing. I’m not new to travelling. I have lived overseas, London specifically, spent weekends in Paris and weeks relaxing in Thailand and backpacking Egypt. What I have found though, as I get older, travelling is still easy, but switching off is not.

I have become accustomed to packing for all kinds of ‘what if I feel like doing work’ moods I may encounter while on holiday, which is by far very different from my minimal, throw it in the bag, backpacking days. This means I take with me my laptop, tablet, kindle, phone with all the apps, notepads, journal, coloured pens, a few highlighters, even post-it notes!

This is great right? It means I am prepared to read, write, study, make notes, plan, brainstorm, send an email, all of it, whenever I like. Actually, it is not so great. This also means I am continually staring at reminders of the work ‘I should be doing’. You see, whilst I think I am prepared for the opportunity to do work if it arises, what I realised I was unconsciously doing was putting pressure on myself to do work when I really should be on holiday. See, not so great.

We all know there is reason for actually having a holiday, you get to relax, see new things, be with people you love, sleep in, go on adventures, eat great food and sometimes do nothing, but if your laptop is always there in the corner, looking at you and giving you gentle reminders that work still exists, your ability to be fully on holiday may be interrupted more than you think. The glance out of the corner of your eye, seeing it as you walk past, opening it only to tap on a few keys, all this does is increase the pressure you are putting on yourself to do work, and this is not a holiday at all! This was me, every holiday for the last few years.

You see, there is a difference between being on a holiday physically, and being on a holiday mentally. All teachers need a mental holiday as much as they need a physical holiday, you and I included.

The week before I went to NYC I got sick, incredibly virus-like, couldn’t get off the couch, open my laptop or even speak sick. It was awful. But it was also a sign, I needed a mental holiday as much as I needed a physical holiday. Even though I was physically sick, I knew this was my body’s way of telling me to stop. I was mentally exhausted, I had been working too much, too hard. I knew this because my last few weeks of self-talk had been something like ‘only 2 more weeks to go, you can do it’, ‘hang in there, 8 days left’. Only I couldn’t hang in there. I was done, and my body made sure of it.

During this week I knew I needed to make some changes. The first step was to ensure I would go on my holiday and actually have a holiday, mentally and physically, no laptop. This was actually suggested to me a few days before by my coach, but I just wasn’t ready to hear it. Now though, I was listening.

So, I made the decision. I was going on holiday, no laptop, no work, no email. Only books and a journal. That’s it. That’s all I took.

Now, this was hard for me. Really hard. At the start of my trip, I felt like something was missing, I even panicked a little going through airport security because I couldn’t find it in my bag, only to remember it was safe and sound at home. I felt a little sense of excitement at this moment, I was actually going on a real holiday, no laptop, no work, no email.

Boarding the plane was also a reminder of the lack of laptop, it wasn’t there to protect or lift out as I put my luggage overhead. It was at this moment something strange happened. Sitting down for taking off, I felt my body fill with some sort of sense of sensation, relief, calm, my body was releasing all the tension and stress I had been carrying with me about the fear of not taking my laptop. For the first time in quite a few years, I was going on holiday just for me, to be with my partner, to have fun, laugh, sleep, live, love, no laptop, work or email, and I knew everything was going to be OK.

It was in this moment I realised I had been missing out on so much. The rush, the pressure, the ‘what’s next?’, this is what I had been focusing on. Not the now, the present, the moment. I had been completely missing the now.

It was here I made a decision, a commitment to myself, give myself more time and space, to be me, to laugh and have fun, to read, to love, to be, to be present. I am not saying this is easy, it surely is a skill, and something I am working on, but without this thought, you are just going through life, and not actually being in it. Awareness is the first step.

Be in your life.

So, did I survive? Yes, I did. Everything was just as I left it when I returned, apart from a few more emails, nothing drastic though, nothing I couldn’t handle, the only thing difference was me. Me. Committing to change my life to be in it, not rushing through it. Being present in the now, knowing what each moment is for, living, loving and being in my life.

I know for some of you this may seem hard, and as I shared, it was for me too, but the thought of missing out on your life is harder. Put your laptop away, make time for you, set time aside to really be present at the moment, build the skill until it is a habit, until it is you.

Need help, I’m here with you. Reach out. Let’s get your life back.

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