Greetings from Bali! My husband and kiddos are currently enjoying the roof top pool while I sit in the quiet of our hotel room sipping chai tea. About half an hour ago I had a 90 minute massage. An hour before that I had a caesar salad and steak lunch. Life is pretty good at the moment, but a week ago? That’s a whole different story.
A week ago I was angry that a patient died before my husband could reach her with help. I wasn’t angry out of compassion though. I was angry over the interruption of my quiet family day. The thought actually crossed my mind, “Why did our day have to be interrupted when she was dead anyway?”
Ouch. That’s ugly.
But that ugly thought is important because it’s a red flag. I’m not normally an ugly person. I usually have compassion on the people around me. When I feel angry at being inconvenienced by suffering and tragedy rather than moved to action, it’s a big fat warning that I need a vacation like RIGHT NOW.
There are other signs too…
It’s almost comical, but I’m so not kidding. The muscles under and around my eyes start to involuntarily and constantly twitch. Even if I’m telling myself I can hang on a bit longer, I know its past time to get away when my eyelids start jumping.
As stress accumulates I begin to struggle to give simple explanations and narratives. Answering questions like, “Which way did you go to get around the road closure?” is about the same as asking me to explain Space-Time Continuum to my 7 year old.
The old joke rings true: I look worse than my passport photo
It’s hard to get good sleep when your mind is running a hundred miles an hour. That lack of sleep shows, especially on my face. When the dark circles under my eyes and a constant grouchy no-smile mouth start to make my passport photo look like a glamour shot, I know it’s time for some serious rest.
People start to notice
“Oh wow you look tired.” my friend said and as my shoulders slumped she followed up with, “When was the last time you guys took a vacation?” If friends are telling me it’s time to take a break, then it really is time to take a break.
True story – This week I held myself a full-on pity party complete with big, rolling tears because friends who spoke English were talking together in their own language and I couldn’t understand them. My four year kept stroking my cheek and saying, “Mommy no crying. Mommy ok.” It was ridiculous, and I knew it, but when you are overly tired you’re also overly sensitive.
All the Problems Are Ginormous Problems
Our freezer, fridge, and washing machine are all on the same circuit in our home. I am constantly forgetting to not boil the electric kettle or turn on the microwave or start the rice cooker while the washing machine is on. The overloaded circuit and my forgetfulness is a pain in the neck. Unless I’m overly stressed and then it’s the worst thing ever and a legitimate reason to quit and go back to America, the land of strong electricity.
I can’t remember why I ever wanted to move overseas in the first place
Left too long, all of these signs of stress culminate in a giant loss of perspective. Our work begins to feel meaningless and I struggle to remember why we ever moved overseas. This feeling is a sign of burn-out and I know if left to fester, it’ll take a lot more than 2 weeks on the beach to recover.
I’d bet that most of us are not that great at making sure we get the rest we need. Go on and book that vacation before something silly like overloaded circuit breakers has you making plans to move.