The Power of Disconnecting While Vacationing

Growing up on the Oregon Coast, it felt like we had two seasons: Winter and summer. In between nearly nine months of nonstop rain, there were three glorious months of summer. Everything was green, lush and beautiful, and the humidity was always relatively low. Everyone and everything appeared to have been “re-born” once summer began, because people could actually leave their houses without getting wet (Oregonians don’t believe in umbrellas).

If your phone has no battery left, it won’t work. The same concept applies to your body – if you have no energy left, you can’t properly function as a person or productive employee.

As a child, my dad would take us up the Wilson River in Tillamook, Ore., and we would spend entire days swimming in the ice-cold river. At night, we would often take a 15-minute drive to watch the sunset on the Pacific Ocean. After the sunset, if we were really lucky, we would have hot chocolate with whipped cream at Roseanna’s, one of the local restaurants near the beach, followed by a bonfire on the beach.

Moving to Washington, D.C. in my mid-20s gave me a new appreciation for those low-humidity Oregon summers. However, I still love summer, and not just because my birthday falls in July. Summer means mental restoration, longer days, warm weather, increased physical activity, bike rides, BBQs, roadside fruit and veggie stands, and time with family and friends. If you suffer from seasonal affective disorder, summer also means a lifting of that mental fog.

But more than anything, summer means vacation – which for me could mean a short weekend trip or a week-long trip back in Oregon. Vacations offer an opportunity to disconnect and replenish your happiness tank. Plus, summer is a season that doesn’t require a lot of money to do things. You can go hiking, go swimming in a river or local pool, go to the park, or buy a cheap grill and food for the same cost as any other everyday meal. The simple act of enjoying the outdoors and time with family and friends is what makes summer so valuable.

Between my full-time job and freelance job with CU Times, I spend a lot of time working and sitting in front of a computer. So when I go on vacation or spend time outdoors, I make a valiant attempt to disconnect from everyone. My friends jokingly tell me I turn into a ghost because they don’t hear from me. However, this disconnection is super important to my mental health, and it helps make me a better-rounded and happier employee.

The turn of the season also serves as motivation to improve my physical health too. The thought of wearing a swimsuit after several months of being inside inevitably gets me to the gym a few more times a week than usual.

Why is this season of recharging so important? If your phone has no battery left, it won’t work. The same concept applies to your body – if you have no energy left, you can’t properly function as a person or productive employee.

So take those vacation days, even if it means enjoying a stay-cation with friends and family.

Here are some tips on responsibly disconnecting from work when you go on vacation this summer:

  • Set expectations before you go on vacation by letting your co-workers know you’ll be unavailable – that way they’ll be less inclined to contact you while you’re away.

  • Send a calendar invite to your superiors so they have a calendar reminder indicating the days you’re going to be out.

  • Before leaving, make a checklist of things you need to do once you get back from vacation. After being gone for a week, it’s easy to forget what open tasks you still have, so a checklist makes it easy to return to your routine smoothly.

  • Make sure you appoint a back-up person who can complete your tasks while you’re away.

  • Set up your out-of-office alert on your email, and provide the name and contact info for your back-up.

  • Create a customized voicemail indicating you’re on vacation and who to contact in your absence.

  • If you’re in the middle of working with a client on something, inform them that you’re going on vacation and let them know who can help them while you’re away.

  • Avoid packing your work devices.

  • Doing an outdoor activity for the day? Leave your cell behind.

  • Capture less and experience more. This means limiting your perfect snaps for Instagram. Sounds crazy, right? While you’re busy staring at your phone screen trying to capture that beautiful sunset, you’re missing the actual sunset.

  • If you have to work while on vacation, only do so during certain hours of the day so you and your family and/or friends can plan activities around your schedule.

Enjoy your vacation, the emails can wait.

A version of this article originally appeared in the Credit Union Times (during summer time).